Every year, The News-Letter Editorial Board issues endorsements after reviewing the platforms of each candidate running for the SGA Executive Board and interviewing the candidates. Endorsement was ultimately given to the candidates who demonstrated the most potential for success, the most experience in student government and the best record in effecting change.
That being said, the Editorial Board has some reservations about the field this year. The two tickets have similar ideas, but seem socially polarized. It is not clear to us that if various members of each ticket were elected to the executive board they would be able to work together effectively. Furthermore, though the candidates clearly put significant effort into their campaigns, they seemed to be somewhat trapped in their rhetoric. The Song ticket circled endessly around the idea of an amorphous "friendship" between the SGA and the student body, and the Larkin ticket referred repeatedly to connections in the administration, which can be helpful, but can also cause student leaders to lose touch. Below, we will outline these reservations as necessary, provide a brief background of each candidate, a description of their proposed policies and our reasons for endorsing and not endorsing.
On a separate note, we would like to stress the importance and ease of voting in this election, especially because voter turnout has been disappointingly low in previous years. In the 2011 SGA Executive Election, for example, only about 30 percent of the undergraduate student body at Hopkins bothered to vote. Because students need only click a button on their laptops to cast their votes, we see no practical reasons to abstain from voting. To this end, we urge all students to partake in these elections. As they decide who will represent the student body in the upcoming year it would seem that all but seniors have a vested interest in the outcome, and seniors especially should understand the importance of participating after four years here at Hopkins. Students must realize that their votes can have a fundamental impact on our community.
SGA President: Wyatt Larkin
The News-Letter takes great care in deciding which presidential candidate to endorse. The SGA president's role is to lead the executive board through all of its decisions and to be the spokesperson for the student body. The two candidates for this position are Moses Song and Wyatt Larkin. While Song is experienced and dedicated to SGA, we believe that Larkin has the skills and experience to make himself an effective leader. Yet, we do not endorse Larkin without reservations. We were somewhat troubled when we observed his interactions with his running mates. Throughout our interview he seemed frustrated, even pained, when another member of his ticket cut him off or strayed from a point he was trying to make. To be a successful leader he will need to become more open and flexible so his frustration does not impede his judgement. Working with others is a crucial skill on SGA.
Larkin, nonetheless, has been instrumental in fostering greater transparency in SGA finances, creating the Taxi Share program and improving student life on campus. As part of his campaign, he has made the construction of a student union a top priority. He has also spent the past year meeting with administration officials to make that goal a reality. Larkin has been in SGA since his freshman year, which is a valuable asset in implementing policies. The relationships he has developed with members of the upper administration are invaluable. Larkin is dedicated to bringing more events to Hopkins - including a concert series to entertain students - and improving pedestrian safety by installing red light cameras to reduce speeding in Charles Village. The News-Letter endorsed Larkin last year for vice president.
Song, his opponent, also has SGA experience, but he has never been a member of the executive board. Furthermore, this page is disappointed by the fact that Song and the rest of his ticket used the same platform outline that the Sabnani campaign used in 2011. This inability to offer new and original ideas to students is troubling. What's more, many of the policies taken from the Sabnani campaign have already been implemented. After being questioned about the similarities between the two platforms, Song and his running mates erased the old Sabnani platform from their website and posted a new one, which included good ideas about uniting the SGA and Hopkins students. The Board believes, however, that the damage has already been done. This incident calls into question the earnestness of the Song campaign.
Song also failed to adequately address the issues of sustainability and pedestrian safety when questioned by the Board. He even responded that his platform makes no mention of sustainability issues because he considers that to be the strength of the Larkin ticket. This Board is skeptical of the Song platform and his presentation left lingering doubts.
SGA Vice President: Joanna Gawlik
The SGA vice president has a number of roles which include supporting the president and running student senate meetings. We believe that rising senior Joanna Gawlik would do an excellent job in this position. Last year, Gawlik received our endorsement for the SGA treasurer position and we are pleased with her success in that position.
Gawlik helped increase the SGA student activities budget by thousands of dollars. She is committed to streamlining the group registration and funding process and she began holding town halls in which group representatives can voice their concerns and contribute ideas for the funding process.
Gawlik's competitor, Alex Schupper, has no SGA Executive Board experience. He does, however, have experience as an SGA senator and many worthy ideas which we believe the SGA should implement. He is also personable and approachable which we feel would allow him to communicate effectively with the student body. We think that his ideas of building an ice rink on campus and holding "team times" with club members to facilitate communication between clubs and the SGA are interesting, if somewhat dubious. In the end, though, we believe Gawlik is the more experienced candidate and has the ability to get her policies implemented.
SGA Treasurer: Michael St. Germain
The SGA treasurer's job is to allocate and manage SGA resources, including student group funding. The News-Letter chooses to endorse St. Germain because of his proven leadership in managing funds and reforming policies, specifically on the subject of sustainability. He was a Freshman Class Senator last year and is the current chair of the SGA Sustainability Committee.
As chair, St. Germain has shown his ability to secure and manage funds. He is currently working on converting the Blue Jay Shuttle to run on compressed natural gas, which is projected to save the University $100,000 in 10 years and to cut CO2 emissions by almost 1 million pounds.
All in all, though, the Board was disappointed with both tickets' policies on sustainability. St. Germain pledged to, "Work to expand water fountains on campus as part of the 'Take Back the Tap' initiative," but when questioned about the practicality and efficacy of such a program, his responses were lacking. The Board asked how he would go about convincing students to drink Baltimore tap water, which has ranked among the bottom third of drinking water for major U.S. cities and was found by the Environmental Working Group in 2009 to contain "316 contaminants in water delivered to the public," but was displeased with his response, in which he admitted a lack of knowledge about these statistics. Additionally, the Board believes that installing a handful of new water fountains on campus will do little - if anything - to foster sustainable practices on campus. The Board decided, though, that St. Germain offered the experience necessary to implement new policies in the future and manage funds for those projects.
Anna Huang, who is running for treasurer on the Song ticket, has no SGA experience and didn't convince the board that she would be as effective as St. Germain in effecting change and managing University funds.
A third candidate for treasurer, Max Dickey, is also running independent of the full tickets. The News-Letter failed to meet with Dickey through no fault of his own, but a review of his website showed that his policy initiatives and proposals are somewhat limited. The most important is a club assembly which, if implemented, would strive to improve communication between student groups on campus. This is an excellent idea, but is one that is shared by the other treasurers running in one form or another. Nonetheless, the Editorial Board regrets that it could not meet with Dickey and hopes that students will give his candidacy due consideration.
SGA Secretary: Debra Schwitzer
The SGA secretary's role is to maintain the SGA website, write up the meeting minutes and act as a liaison between the executive board and the student body. This year, The News-Letter has decided to endorse Debra Schwitzer for this role. She has been an integral member of the SGA finance committee. A sophomore class senator and economics major, she has communicated with Provost Minor and Dean Connolly to improve the academic advising process. Additionally, she is campaigning strongly for her ticket's commitment to safety and security at Hopkins. She has planned a marketing strategy for reducing jaywalking and is currently working to construct a blue light on Art Museum Drive. As secretary, she would be committed to publishing a clear and transparent SGA budget.
Schwitzer's competitor, Paige Doyle, is very involved on campus but has no SGA experience. The role of secretary is vital to the functioning of the SGA and the Board is skeptical that Doyle will be able to learn to do such integral work while on the job. We believe someone with proven experience in SGA is a safer choice for secretary. While she did have some good ideas about producing SGA YouTube videos to keep students informed, they were not enough to make up for her lack of experience.