Elections for the Freshman Class Council of the Student Government Association (SGA) are underway, with the polls opening last night at 9 p.m. at www.vote.jhu.edu. Polls close at midnight on Sunday.
“This year’s creative talents are definitely better than the ones in years past,” Michael Wu, Chair of the Committee on Student Elections, said of the candidates.
There are four candidates for Freshman Class President: Giana Dawod, Jasmine Warmington, Alex Koren, and Joseph Min. In addition, Niko Kotoulas is running as a write-in candidate after being disqualified Tuesday night.
Fourteen members of the Class of 2016 are vying for the six senatorial seats on the Freshman Class Council: Jason Albalah, Larry Hou, Imoni McCorvey, Miceile Barrett, Jahan Mirchandani, Neil Rens, Jack Bartholet, Ranita Ghosh, Manwei Chan, Amy Sun, Craig Heller, Kanami Mori, Rex Dyer, and Kyra Toomre.
Kotoulas, technically the fifth candidate for Freshman Class President, was disqualified for writing false names on his petition sheet, which requires 200 signatures of members of the freshman class in order to qualify a prospective candidate for the election.
“Certain people weren’t mature enough to put their own names,” Kotoulas said.
He went on to argue that he should have been given the opportunity to gather supplementary signatures in light of his having turned in the petition sheet early.
He did not elaborate on the situation further.
Giana Dawod, a candidate for Freshman Class President, declared her support for Kotoulas’ perseverance.
“He’s persevering, and that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s politics.”
The official campaign effort concluded on last night with the opening of the polls at 9 p.m. This year’s campaign efforts by the Presidential candidates have included many of the standard gestures, including online videos, posters in the freshman dormitories, and handing out candy to potential voters. Jasmine Warmington distributed Dum Dum lollipops taped to a paper message of self-endorsement.
Alex Koren, a candidate for President, made a video of himself juggling and another of himself emulating the popular “Gangnam Style” dance around Homewood. The afternoon before Koren posted the second video, candidate Joseph Min released a poster of himself doing the Gangnam Style dance on a table in the Brody Learning Commons reading room.
“I actually was unaware that [Min’s] poster was Gangnam Style, and his posters weren’t around that much,” Koren said. “I just wanted to get my name out there. I guess I realized that when it comes to being a good candidate, especially for a freshman position, it comes down to putting yourself out there. It relies a lot on being fun, being approachable.”
The efficacy of these election tactics, however, is up for debate.
“Campus seems overrun with zealous candidates and trite slogans,” freshman Jules Vigorito said. “Most freshmen respond by taking the free candy and darting away, no more likely to vote whatsoever.”
Voter turnout for class council elections generally fluctuates between 50 and 75 percent, according to CSE data.
“We always aim for 100 percent turnout, but in the past we have been close to 70 percent,.” Wu said.
In the most recent Class Council election, which voted for the representatives of the Classes of 2013, 2014, and 2015 in April, the then-freshmen saw a significantly higher voter turnout than the elder two classes, though the percentage dropped considerably from the Freshman Class Council election the previous October.
Some candidates lamented the relatively short campaign period as prohibitive to a successful election, shifting the focus of the campaign towards publicity and entertainment instead of viable political platforms.
“It is unfair that the person who might be the most qualified for the position might not be the most well-connected,” Min said.
Many freshman voters confirmed Min’s sentiments — that the election is, in effect, a popularity contest, with success predicated upon on who knows whom.
“I’m voting for candidates because I know them,” freshman Dael Norowitz said. “That’s really the only reason.”
In spite of this, the candidates maintained their optimism for public service at Hopkins.
“Realistically, I don’t know how many suggestions other students will give [SGA] because there is a disconnect between the student government and actual students, but as student government you do a lot of the things behind the scenes that makes the school run smoothly,” Larry Hoe, a candidate for Freshman Class Senator, said.
“I got involved my senior year of high school, and it was nice to plan things and meet people, so I thought I’d run at Hopkins,” Min said. “I’m hoping to bring the community closer together: to connect students with faculty, and strengthen the class as a group overall.”
“I’d love to be elected, but at the end of the day, it’s been a fun race,”Koren said. “That’s all that matters.”