Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 24, 2020

Our endorsements for the 2020-2021 SGA Executive Board

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | March 5, 2020

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In an attempt to increase voter turnout and streamline the voting process, the student body will vote for candidates on the Student Government Association’s (SGA) class councils and executive boards at the same time this year. 

While we hope that students take this opportunity to get more involved in the election process, we recognize a major flaw in the Committee for Student Elections (CSE)’s decision to reschedule elections: There will be at least four students this year who do not get elected to an executive board position and will not have the opportunity to be involved in their SGA class council. 

Moreover, while this year’s executive board election is more competitive than it has been in recent years, none of the class council president positions are contested, and no one is running for senior class senator. There will be at least eight vacancies after this election ends. 

We suspect that this is in part due to the lack of transparency in respect to the election schedule. Although CSE Chair Bahira Ahmed said that “election results will be announced right before spring break” at an SGA meeting on Feb. 11, the election dates were not announced until the following meeting, and the CSE did not email the school until Feb. 23. This email was sent the day before their first information session, forcing students to decide immediately if they wanted to run, and giving them less than a week to complete the candidacy requirements. The CSE then had to add an additional session after candidates were not able to attend the required meeting. 

Upon interviewing the two tickets for SGA’s executive election — “Focus Forward” and “Taking Flight” — as well as an independent candidate, Sam Mollin, the Editorial Board endorses the following candidates for SGA’s executive board: Sam Mollin for executive president, Mehak Ali for executive vice president, Breanna Soldatelli for executive secretary and Addy Perlman for executive treasurer.

PRESIDENT: SAM MOLLIN

All three candidates for executive president have SGA experience and have key issues in common that they want to address. However, we feel that Sam Mollin has the plans, passion and experience — both on and off campus — for the most productive presidency.

We endorse Mollin because he has a proven track record and ambitious yet realistic plans for SGA’s direction. A current junior, Mollin served on his SGA Class Council during his freshman and sophomore years. 

He spent this past fall in Washington, D.C. and was therefore unable to work on SGA. Despite his absence, he has shown that he is extremely aware of the issues facing SGA and the student body. During our interview, Mollin spoke to the highest priorities for his campaign. He emphasized key aspects of his platform, including the introduction of a Transparency Act, adding an undergraduate representative to the Board of Trustees, improving the Committee of Student Organizations (CSO), negotiating directly with the Parents Fund and implementing policies from last year’s SGA referendum. He also highlighted mental health initiatives, sustainability and staying in touch with activist groups on campus as important parts of his presidency.

During his time on SGA, Mollin implemented tangible solutions to pressing issues on campus. As a freshman, he co-sponsored the SGA Powers and Authorities Resolution. He was extremely active in encouraging students to fill out the SGA referendum, and laments the fact that its suggestions have not been acted upon by the current SGA. Mollin also plays a role in several sustainability groups on campus, including Refuel Our Future, and helped secure compost bins outside of the FFC as a member of Students for Environmental Action.

We note that Mollin was not a member of SGA during this academic year, and he is the only candidate who has not yet served on the executive board. Mollin is also running as a solo candidate, rather than with a ticket. Should he become president, he would have to spend time building the connections with members that his competitors already have. 

However, we admire Mollin’s commitment to SGA. His passion is unmatched. He addressed his lack of a ticket, explaining that he knows several other candidates and is confident in his ability to work with any executive board or Senate. The 2020 SGA write-in candidates also endorsed Mollin, noting his “commitment to student life and activism on campus.”

Mollin also set himself apart in his approach to engaging with administrators. Both of Mollin’s contenders, Eric Armstrong and Pritika Parmar, emphasized the need for SGA to build cordial relationships with administrators, noting that they have already done so. Mollin, on the other hand, was the only candidate who envisions SGA as a body that can organize students into action. He wants to be a stronger advocate for activists on campus and, if necessary, have SGA engage in public acts of protest to hold the administration accountable. With issues like the private police force, Mollin said SGA cannot simply sit aside and “politely ask admin to do things.”

“We cannot continue to be afraid of publicly acting against them,” Mollin said. 

We acknowledge that SGA does have a responsibility to act as a mediator between administrators and the student body, and that aggression may not always be conducive to that role. However, the candidates for the rest of the executive board positions already seem to prioritize building a rapport with administrators. SGA needs a more radical leader who will advocate for the students it represents. 

Pritika Parmar, the current executive secretary of SGA, demonstrates a genuine desire to represent the student body in her bid for executive president. Her involvement in SGA, which includes a year as a freshmen class senator, undoubtedly gives her adequate experience for this position. Parmar also expressed passion for improving mental health on campus, an issue she identified as one of the most important for the University to address. 

However, it would be remiss of us to not address a key hole in Parmar’s campaign for executive president: her role in SGA’s current issues with transparency. Agendas from SGA meetings are not being sent out, the SGA website was updated only two weeks ago (and is still not completely finished), and meeting minutes have not been consistently shared, if they are being taken at all. These are all parts of Parmar’s responsibilities that she has failed to fulfill, and we are concerned whether she would fulfill her responsibilities to lead a more transparent SGA as executive president. 

Additionally, compared to other candidates, Parmar’s platform focuses on issues that seem of lower priority to the student body. Given SGA’s influence and relationship with administration, we believe that there are more pressing issues that SGA can address. As listed on her CSE candidate page, one of Parmar’s top three priorities is providing Blue Jay shuttles to the Inner Harbor in order to improve engagement with Baltimore. Not only is this not the best way for students to immerse themselves in different parts of the city, but we also believe that it is not as urgent an issue as that of mental health or “student organization reform.” 

Eric Armstrong has had a year of valuable experience as executive treasurer. Armstrong was one of several executive board candidates who expressed concerns that there has been greater animosity between SGA members this past year, and he seems sincerely interested in fostering a more positive culture within the organization. He has also shown a desire to form positive relationships with administrators while also pressuring them to provide students with better mental health and sexual assault resources via the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). 

However, in his interview, Armstrong did not provide concrete solutions to these problems and what SGA’s role would be in handling them, other than to be an advocate. We also have doubts as to how far he would be willing to go to put pressure on administrators when their interests conflict with those of the student body. 

For example, reflecting on the annual SGA dinner with University President Ronald J. Daniels last year, Armstrong criticized SGA for “yelling” at Daniels and “talking at him” because of their opposition to his plans to implement a private police force. Armstrong speculated that part of the reason why issues like “the OIE thing” and the incorporation of a police force are still persistent issues may be that SGA members were not thinking more intentionally about how to have cordial conversations with Daniels. 

While we respect Armstrong’s desire to build less hostile relationships with administrators, the notion that administrators would have followed through and may have been more willing to meet student demands had SGA been more polite is severely misguided. 

Moreover, we find it impossible to overlook the jarring discrepancy between the goals of the ticket’s platform and views that Armstrong has expressed in this past year. Like the other two tickets, Taking Flight aims to increase SGA’s transparency. However, Armstrong has expressed his opposition to livestreaming meetings — a popular initiative among members for increasing transparency. In a weekly SGA meeting on Dec. 3, Armstrong said that he is someone who has had “controversial opinions,” and that livestreaming meetings would make people reluctant to share controversial opinions that needed to be heard. Armstrong described livestreaming as “an impediment not only for the productivity of our meeting, but also for the integrity.”

We acknowledge that when we asked Armstrong to address these comments during our interviews, he said that his views have changed and he now supports livestreaming. However, that he had opposed livestreaming at all to begin with casts doubt on how sincere he is in his desire to ensure that SGA be more transparent. His rationale for opposing livestreaming suggests that he is more interested in protecting himself and his fellow representatives from criticism, than ensuring that the student body is able to hold them accountable. 

VICE PRESIDENT: MEHAK ALI

Although the position of Executive Vice President was uncontested, the Editorial Board endorses Mehak Ali. Ali currently holds this position, having stepped into the role last fall when then-Vice President Dean Chien became president. Other students on her ticket praised her ability to quickly learn the vice president’s responsibilities and noticed that she helped to promote positivity within SGA. 

Aside from her apparent experience and knowledge of the responsibilities of the role, Ali holds valuable insight into the complex relationship between the student body, SGA and the administration. During our interview, she made it clear that she is committed to advocating for the student body, even if it means confrontation with administrators. However, because of Ali’s pre-existing relationship with University officials, we believe that she will be able to maintain a cordial line of communication. 

SECRETARY: BREANNA SOLDATELLI

As freshman class president, Breanna Soldatelli has already made strides to be more representative of the student body. She has proven herself to be in tune with what students want, and during our interview with her, it was easy to see her confidence in not only herself as a representative, but also in her knowledge of how SGA functions.  

While some of the issues Soldatelli brought up were somewhat limited in scope, we are confident that she will be able to step up and face the more pressing issues facing the student body. She has already worked to make SGA more diverse, passing a bill to establish the Hispanic/Latinx Caucus. 

This past year, transparency in SGA has become more important than ever, and the incoming executive secretary must be prepared to address this. Given her record of consistent email communication with the freshman class, we are optimistic that Soldatelli will be able to lead SGA in its process of becoming more transparent.

We believe that if elected, freshman Greta Maras would also make a capable and enthusiastic executive secretary. In her interview, Maras stressed the importance of transparency and acknowledged that this year SGA has been largely uncommunicative with the student body. Beyond updating SGA’s website and increasing email communication, however, Maras did not provide any new or concrete solutions to this problem. 

We also believe that Maras’ involvement in many policy and engagement-oriented student groups on campus, from HopkinsVotes to the Public Policy Consulting Group, would serve her well as executive secretary. But, as a first-year student with no previous SGA experience at Hopkins, we feel Maras lacks some of the insight that Soldatelli would bring to the position.

TREASURER: ADDY PERLMAN

The Editorial Board has chosen to endorse current Junior Class Senator Addy Perlman for the role of executive treasurer. Perlman only joined SGA this year, but noted that her time outside of the organization can actually help her better connect with the student body — particularly student organizations who have faced a tumultuous year of budget cuts. Although she did not demonstrate that she had ample experience on managing finances during our interview, Perlman demonstrated her apt knowledge of how non-SGA student organizations work, giving her perspective on how funding for clubs should be better distributed. 

Freshman Daniel Weber is also running for executive treasurer, and we were impressed by his accounting experience. He currently serves as the executive treasurer of two student organizations on campus and balanced books for an ambulance corp during a gap year. Weber suggested using an accounting service such as Quickbooks instead of Google Sheets to keep track of SGA’s budget in the future, which we hope SGA will take into account. If elected, we believe that Weber will be a willing and informed treasurer.

However, unlike Perlman, Weber has no previous SGA experience. Throughout the interview, he appeared uninformed about some details of SGA’s operation, as well as larger issues facing the student body today. Weber also expressed his belief that “SGA should be an arm of the administration, rather than being its own entity.” This concerned us, given that we believe SGA should primarily function as a representative of the student body interests, not the administration.

There are many candidates running for the executive board, and we are confident that all of them will make a positive impact on SGA. However, we believe that the candidates we endorsed will be the most effective at ensuring that SGA makes a positive difference in the lives of students.

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