Two tickets vie for SGA exec. board positions

By ALYSSA WOODEN | April 6, 2017

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COURTESY OF NEW HORIZONS AND HOPFORWARD Voting for the SGA election begins on Friday.

Elections for next year’s Student Government Association (SGA) executive board will open this Friday, April 7. The two tickets running for office are “New Horizons” and “HopForward.”

New Horizons consists of sophomore Noh Mebrahtu running for executive president, sophomore AJ Tsang for executive vice president, freshman Rushabh Doshi for executive secretary and sophomore Mi Tu for executive treasurer.

The New Horizons’ platform identifies six main pillars: mental health, diversity and inclusion, environmental advocacy, civic engagement, SGA transparency  and school spirit.

The HopForward ticket includes junior Anna Du running for executive president, freshman Alex Walinskas for executive vice president, junior Lucas Rosen for executive secretary and sophomore Kush Mansuria for executive treasurer.

Their HopForward platform focuses on innovation, inclusion, and health and well-being.

HopFoward wants to work with student groups focused on entrepreneurship and reform the Student Activities Commission (SAC) bylaws. Du explained their plan to post an idea board on the Breezeway for students to give SGA suggestions.

“We’d ask students to write down on a card, ‘If you had $500 where would you invest it at Hopkins?’” Du said. “And we would select answers from that board and invest $500 from SGA’s accounts to those student responses.”

HopForward believes this policy will address the disconnect between SGA and the student body.

“A lot of students think that SGA is so distant and not necessarily connected to their student groups,” Mansuria said. “But this is a way that we’re showing that we are actually part of the community and we do contribute.”

Mental health is also an important aspect of HopForward’s platform. The candidates plan to support mental health-related student organizations and initiatives, such as A Place to Talk (APTT) and the student-designed mental health app, Atrium.

“I absolutely think mental health is something that needs to be continuously addressed on campus,” Walinskas said. “Peer-based solutions are something that we should continue to look into and strengthen.”

Rosen hopes to bring the SGA closer to the student body by increasing their social media presence.

“What I want to do as secretary is really run a very active Facebook, Instagram, Twitter account so that the students know what SGA is doing and also so that they can easily direct messages to [SGA],” Rosen said. “If it’s a good idea, we’ll take it into consideration.”

HopForward also hopes to ease the relationship between students and the administration.

They  that some of the administration’s recent actions, like the removal of covered grades and the new branding guidelines, have alienated the student body.

Walinskas talked about SGA’s role in working with both the students and the administration, and she stressed the importance of empathizing with both groups.

“When you can sort of take the time to sort of step back and rationally understand the goals and the obstacles and the frustrations that both the administration and students face... that’s the best way to reach a middle ground that’s productive and beneficial to everyone,” she said.

HopForward supports University divestment from fossil fuels and advocates for the administration to take more action in terms of sustainable infrastructure and energy use.

“Right now we have really good compost and... waste management programs on campus, but I think in order to adequately deal with the issue of climate change... [we need to address] how can we continue to reduce energy consumption on campus,” Walinskas said.

Regarding race and diversity, HopForward promotes recognition and facilitation of diversity-focused student organizations, as well as collaborations between organizations to advance discussions about race and diversity.

Du and Walinskas said they were qualified for their positions because of their experience as current SGA members, having served as executive vice president and freshman senator, respectively.

“I’ve built a big network, both within the students and the administration,” Du said. “I look forward to fully taking the initiative to reach out even further through my new role as executive president.”

Mansuria believes his experiences as a First-Year Mentor and as SAC commissioner will benefit his role as treasurer, if elected.

Rosen counts his work as marketing chair of his fraternity Sigma Chi and his work as social media chair for a PR firm among his qualifications for executive secretary.

The other ticket, New Horizons, which includes Mebrahtu for executive president, Tsang for executive vice president, Doshi for executive secretary and Tu for executive treasurer, discussed policies like maintaining the recently passed menstrual hygiene bill, creating new traditions of spirit and solidarity and implementing a smoking ban.

They also hope to install an SGA committee for civic engagement.

“By creating a committee on civic engagement, we are essentially creating an SGA group completely dedicated to advocating for the protection of student rights,” Tsang said. “We’ll have SGA resources dedicated to ensure students are aware and fighting for issues of political activism.”

Another major focus of the New Horizons platform is mental health, particularly how it relates to campus policies and infrastructure. Tsang discussed dedicating specific spaces on campus to relaxation and socializing, separate from study spots like the library.

Regarding student perception of SGA, Tsang and Mebrahtu agreed that SGA needs to have better transparency and accountability.

“No one really hears about what SGA does, and it’s not very transparent on what it does or what it wants to do and what its goals are,” Mebrahtu said. “What we’re trying to do is to increase accountability and find ways to be more open to the public.”

New Horizons listed maintaining a more transparent website, livestreaming SGA meetings via Facebook and uploading the recordings to Blackboard as ways of increasing accountability. Doshi also advocated for using social media to encourage collaboration among SGA members.

“We also want to make a huge social media push to make sure everyone knows what’s happening,” he said. “While collaborating with the rest of the exec board, we also need to collaborate with the leaders that are chosen in SGA itself.”

Tsang and Mebrahtu also discussed how New Horizons plans to address tensions between the administration and the faculty. They expressed frustration over the removal of covered grades, which they believe will threaten mental health on campus, as well as the University’s branding guidelines.

They stressed their commitment to the student body and their willingness to push back against unpopular administration policies.

“One of the important roles of SGA is to act as the bridge between the administrators and the students,” Tu said. “When students reach out to us, we have to work with the administration and staff to solve the issue and the problems they raise.”

New Horizons also advocated for University divestment from fossil fuels and investment in renewable energy.

“We want to make sure that the University knows that there’s an SGA resolution out there for this,” Tsang said. “We want to make sure that the administration follows through on their promise to look at fossil fuel divestment as a serious issue.”

The ticket hopes to address diversity issues on campus by creating a diversity council and working with current cultural and diversity groups to discuss these issues with the faculty and administration.

Additionally, Tu plans to continue working with the director of LGBT+ life, Demere Woolway, to investigate the new gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

All four members of the ticket have experience in student government. Mebrahtu is currently the sophomore class president, Tsang is a sophomore senator, Tu is a sophomore senator and class treasurer and Doshi is a freshman senator.

“At the end of the day, student government isn’t just an institution or an organization, it’s a promise,” Tsang said. “It’s a promise to care, a promise to devote oneself... wholly and completely, to the representation and advocation of the student body. It’s a promise to be there for them, anytime and all the time.”

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