Students elect new SGA executive board

By DIVA PAREKH and RUDY MALCOM | March 20, 2019

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The Committee on Student Elections (CSE) announced on Tuesday the results of the Student Government Association (SGA) executive board elections. Three out of four members of the Hop Forward ticket and one member of the Change ticket won seats, beating out the other candidates. 

The 2019-20 SGA executive board will comprise sophomore Aspen Williams as executive president, junior Dean Chien as executive vice president, freshman Eric Armstrong as executive treasurer and freshman Pritika Parmar as executive secretary. Williams, Chien, Parmar and freshman Nathan Mudrak comprised the Hop Forward ticket, while Armstrong and juniors Jessup Jong and Ahmed Elzokm were part of the Change ticket. Claire Gorman, who ran for the position of executive Vice President, was an independent candidate.

All four executive board positions were contested, with two people running for each.

Williams secured the position of executive president with 950 votes, while Jong followed with 539 votes.

Chien received 864 votes to win executive vice president, and Gorman followed with 569 votes.

Parmar received 1046 votes for executive secretary, while Elzokm received 327.

For the closest contest of the executive board elections, Armstrong won as executive treasurer with 679 votes, and Mudrak followed with 671 votes.

A total of 1,627 voters participated in the election, marking an increase of 55 percent from last year, when a total of 1,052 students voted.

Outgoing Executive President AJ Tsang commented on the increase in voter turnout in an email to The News-Letter.

“The increase in turnout is a strong indicator that SGA is on the right path to growing its engagement with and representativeness of the student body,” he wrote.

Williams, who currently serves on the SGA executive board as secretary, agreed with Tsang, attributing the increase in turnout to the competitiveness of this election.

“Competitive elections are very important in getting voters engaged, not just because you have candidates reaching out to people but… people feel like they have more of a say in who represents them,” she said.

She attributed her ticket’s success to its diversity in experience and ideas. 

“We had members who were experienced: who not only understood what it means to be in student leadership and a liaison between the student body and administration, but who had also done a lot of work meeting directly with constituents and understanding student needs,” Williams said. 

According to Chien, who has served on SGA for three years, the increased turnout reflects the student body’s changing perception of SGA’s capabilities.

“More people turned out because more people believed SGA has something to offer them. I hope that… we can continue being productive, talking to each other, respecting each other and bringing new and diverse voices into SGA,” he said.

Chien added that the process of campaigning and listening to concerns has prepared the future executive board to more successfully engage with the student body.

“Campaigning should not be the only time that you ever hear from an SGA representative," he said. "Even though it represents a really tremendous opportunity for us to be able to meet people, to be able to conduct outreach — this shouldn’t be the only time we are talking to people."

He noted that because this year’s executive elections were moved up by three weeks, the campaigning process was cut short, which both he and Williams felt made the process more difficult. Chien believes, however, that the accelerated timeline could allow for more extensive class council elections, which would in turn benefit SGA and the student body.

Chien appreciated the efforts that candidates like Williams and Gorman had made during the election process to encourage more women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community to get more involved with SGA.

Though Gorman will not be serving on the SGA executive board, she hopes to still be able to work on some of her ideas to improve SGA culture. Gorman intends to run for the senior class council and conduct an active listening workshop during the following academic year.

She appreciated that students voted and expressed their ideas through the election process.

“I was really delighted when I saw the number of votes that I did get, even though I lost, because it showed me that people on this campus can tell when somebody genuinely cares about something, and that they will come out for that candidate,” she said.

She wished, however, that more students had attended the SGA executive election debate. According to Gorman, the debate would have been a great way to showcase the candidates’ ideas to the student body had it been better attended by students outside of SGA.

Parmar, who will be next year's executive secretary, agreed that the debate could have been better publicized.

“It’s hard [for students] to talk to each individual candidate on their own and see what their opinions are, but when we’re answering the same questions on the same stage... that’s an easier mechanism of gauging who knows what and what their direction for SGA is,” she said.

Parmar felt that acclimating herself to SGA as a new student was challenging and she hopes to improve the culture in the coming year.

“Coming in as a freshman into this kind of rambunctious and a little aggressive body, it was kind of difficult to try to assert my position there,” Parmar said. “That’s a problem, because the younger members should have just as much of a say as the older members do.”

Parmar aims to mitigate this issue through mentorship within SGA. She added that her mentors, particularly Williams, helped her form connections with both fellow SGA members and with upper-level University administrators to whom she could communicate student concerns.

Armstrong, who ran on the Change ticket, will serve as executive treasurer. He aims to further transparency both within the SGA and the University administration.

“My specific plans [include] making SGA financial documents more public, having a way for students to access their budget without having to go through a bunch of different parties and marketing the Student Activities Commission [SAC] monthly grants more,” he said. “A minority of students know that SGA can directly support them with financial resources for planning campus events... I want to publicize that more so students have more access to that money.”

According to Armstrong, student voters wanted someone in office who could represent their voices. He will advocate for student participation in the planning process for the new student center.

“A lot of students aren’t concerned with minute details and specific duties but rather broad ideas,” he said. “My platform was not super specific to the treasurer positions but issues students could understand and relate to.”

Armstrong was the only member of the Change ticket who secured a position on the SGA executive board. 

Freshman Hop Forward ticket member Nathan Mudrak, who lost to Armstrong by eight votes, stated that he is optimistic about SGA’s future.

“I congratulate Eric and the rest of the elected Executive Board candidates and look forward to seeing the positive changes that I know they will make in the lives of Hopkins undergraduates,” Mudrak wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

In an email to The News-Letter, Jessup Jong explained that he was thankful for the opportunity to represent the student body. He hopes that the concerns raised during the election are remembered in the future.

“I hope that SGA takes into account the issues that were raised during the executive board debate such as the student union center, private police force, dining and housing, mental health and sexual assault, student organizations and Greek life,” he wrote.

Williams emphasized that the newly elected executive board will continue to focus on student issues.

“Overhauling how we recognize and finance student organizations is going to be the main project for next year’s executive board — making sure that we streamline the process,” she said. “I’m excited for the members that we have on the executive board. We all have experience in student government, and that team cohesiveness is going to be there at the start. We’ve continued and started a lot of good projects, and I hope to bring those into the future.”

Similarly, Chien hopes that this year’s SGA executive board will be able to establish a lasting legacy during the upcoming year.

“Change happens incrementally on this campus. It takes effort, it takes persistence and it takes robust relationships with administration to push things forward,” he said. “From our end as SGA, it takes institutional memory: the ability to look back and say, ‘Well we tried this, let’s try something different.’”

Ahmed Elzokm did not respond to The News-Letter as of press time. 

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