On Wednesday, the Committee for Student Elections (CSE) hosted a debate for candidates running for Student Government Association (SGA) executive board positions. Two tickets of candidates are running, in addition to one independent candidate contending for treasurer.
“The mission of CSE is to have fair elections … and get students out and really excited about the elections [so they] participate and have as high a turnout as possible,” senior Laura Perkinson, chair of CSE, said.
The CSE’s seven members hold information sessions for prospective candidates, review campaign statements and adjudicate campaign violation cases.
During the debate, each candidate outlined their platforms with an opening statement and later answered questions from senior members of the SGA and students in the audience.
“This is the first time we’ve actually had a debate … in the past, the election process has gone somewhat smoothly, but … why not give the student body all the resources to be able to get to know the candidates?” junior Mahzi Malcolm, a candidate for executive treasurer, said.
Junior Janice Bonsu, one of the two presidential candidates, discussed funding for Advocacy and Awareness groups, creating a “Presidential Council” with student leaders from other universities and improving security off-campus. Junior Justin Whalley, the other candidate for executive president, spoke about his background and pledged to offer a fresh perspective.
Bonsu’s ticket includes sophomore Kyra Toomre, running for executive vice president, junior Will Szymanski, running for executive treasurer, and freshman Adelaide Morphett, running for executive secretary.
Whalley’s ticket includes junior Jake Rogers, junior Mahzi Malcolm and freshman Ope Olukorede, running for executive vice president, executive treasurer and executive secretary, respectively.
Junior Maxwell Dickey, who is running for executive treasurer, is the sole independent candidate. Each candidate has a campaign spending cap of $100, and candidates on tickets are able to pool their budgets. In the election, however, tickets will not appear on the ballot, and students will vote for candidates individually.
Toomre stressed school spirit and described the SGA’s leadership style as collaborative. This year, she worked on the Commemoration Ball as well as “What do you want Wednesdays,” in which students can voice their concerns to members of the SGA.
Rogers, not a current SGA member, said he would be open-minded, bring a new perspective to the SGA and listen to student groups.
“I decided to run out of the fact that, after observing Hopkins for three years, and seeing ongoing issues, I thought that in my last year here it would be good to make a few changes and to do my best to represent the entire student body,” Rogers said.
This year, Morphett worked on setting up the new Blue Jay Shuttle route to Hamden. She said the SGA’s greatest weakness is a lack of transparency, and she plans to improve the SGA’s website and social media presence.
Olukorede wants to bring back old traditions and said she would be an advocate for student groups. When asked about the budget limit on elections, Olukorede said she supports it.
Szymanski, who characterized himself as a workhorse, said he wants to change the Student Activities Commission (SAC) application so that it is based more on clubs’ goals. He also wants to plan more trips for students to explore Baltimore.
Malcolm said he would listen more to student groups, provide discounted printing for students and offer amnesty policies for drug and alcohol violations. He said the SGA should reach out to student groups instead of expecting them to come to the SGA.
Dickey wants to start a “Club Association” and establish preconditions that clubs must meet to receive funding for their events. As a member of the SAC, he emphasized his experience assessing fund requests from student organizations.
“I have a lot of perspectives about student government, and . . . I’ve identified a lot of ways it can be improved,” Dickey said.
In a second round of questions, the SGA pushed the candidates to be creative. Bonsu said she would discuss upperclassmen housing if she could meet with President Daniels. Whalley said that he would develop a class on cultural diversity and another on alcohol education.
Among other topics, students in the audience asked about funding for Advocacy and Awareness groups, promoting athletics and being more inclusive of minorities in the Hopkins community.
“We’re not 5,000 individual students; we’re 5,000 students that make up one cohesive student body at Hopkins,” Whalley said.
Szymanski, Whalley, Rogers and Dickey, who have not held SGA positions, also explained why they are qualified to run for the executive board.
At one point, a student in the audience claimed that the minutes from most SGA meetings were not on the SGA website. Morphett contested that claim, and, in fact, the minutes do appear on the SGA website. Another student in the audience pointed out that Whalley had credited one of his fraternity brothers with planning a tailgate when Toomre was actually the organizer.
The Filmmaking Club recorded the debate and plans to post excerpts on Facebook.
“It’s a big event on campus, and it ends up being one of our biggest viewership events of the year, so it’s pretty natural for us to film it,” junior Grant Lease, a board member of the club, said.
Voting begins on Friday at 4 p.m. and ends on Sunday at 11:59 p.m.