Two tickets, Focus Forward and Taking Flight, and an independent candidate, Sam Mollin, are running in the Student Government Association’s (SGA) executive board elections. The voting period will begin on Friday and end on March 11.
Unlike past years, the student body will now vote for candidates to SGA’s class councils and executive board at the same time. According to Committee on Student Elections (CSE) Chair Bahira Ahmed, this will encourage voter turnout and decrease student apathy toward SGA elections, while also extending the transition period between the incoming and outgoing executive boards.
The Focus Forward ticket includes sophomore Pritika Parmar running for executive president, sophomore Mehak Ali for executive vice president, junior Addy Perlman for executive treasurer and freshman Breanna Soldatelli for executive secretary. Parmar is currently SGA’s executive secretary; Ali is the incumbent executive vice president; Perlman is a junior class senator; and Soldatelli is freshman class president.
The Taking Flight ticket includes sophomore Eric Armstrong running for executive president, freshman Daniel Weber for executive treasurer and freshman Greta Maras for executive secretary. Whereas Armstrong is currently the executive treasurer, Weber and Maras have no previous SGA experience.
Junior Sam Mollin is independently running for executive president. Before spending his fall semester in Washington, D.C. as an Aitchison Public Service Fellow, he previously served as a senator on the freshman and sophomore class councils.
Focus Forward’s Platform
According to Parmar, Focus Forward is SGA’s first-ever all-female ticket. Their goal, she said, is to preemptively respond to problems before they are created.
Parmar plans to improve mental health on campus by expanding services at the Counseling Center and designing activities intended to relieve stress. She also hopes to foster better communication between SGA and the student body.
“There were a lot of student organizations that were rightfully angry at SGA’s allocations this year,” she said. “A lot of that could have been avoided with increased transparency and better training for student organization leaders.”
As a member of another student organization, Perlman sympathized with these concerns.
Through SGA, Perlman is currently working on a blog to spotlight the efforts of student organizations.
In addition, Perlman is planning a week in April to promote conversation surrounding sexual violence, consent culture and body positivity.
“If we open up as many avenues as possible for student organizations to talk to us and us to talk to them, then we’re going to have better student life,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our livelihood, our enjoyment on this campus or our mental health.”
Soldatelli, who recently passed a bill to create a Latinx and Hispanic caucus, mentioned that she has hosted large events like a haunted house in order to increase school spirit.
She plans to reform the dining experience, noting that many of her constituents have experienced sanitation issues and gluten cross-contamination at the Fresh Food Cafe.
She noted that all Focus Forward candidates have previous SGA experience.
“We range here all the way from current freshman to current juniors. We have a wide scope of interests, and we’re trying to represent all of the student body,” she said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to change Hopkins for the better.”
Parmar pointed to her relationships with University leadership.
“It’s really important that on the Executive Board, we have people who are able to communicate with administrators, listen to what they’re saying and counter in a way that admin is willing to listen,” she said.
Parmar added that her ticket is uniquely qualified to effectively work with the University administration.
“I don’t know if the other candidates have that kind of ability.”
Ali, who became executive vice president in November, stated that she has sought to foster relationships within SGA itself to facilitate conversation and in turn pass more bills.
“One of the key things that a vice president should do is help engage more members of SGA to do their job,” she said. “If I make their job easier, we’re going to have more productivity in SGA, and we’re going to have more things that we can help the student body do as a whole.”
Toward this goal, Ali and Parmar recently organized an SGA retreat. Parmar emphasized her ability to encourage engagement from all members of SGA.
Ali, Parmar and Perlman stated that they are close to providing free printing on campus.
Parmar expressed her desire for her ticket to have a lasting impact on the Homewood campus.
“We need to focus on pushing forward long-term goals while also getting short-term victories,” she said. “We’re in a unique position to do that with our connections to administrators, our unique ideas and our ability to work together.”
Taking Flight’s Platform
Armstrong explained why his ticket is called Taking Flight.
“We’re at a critical juncture,” Armstrong said. “With the upcoming student center construction, there’s been a lack of transparency and accountability of SGA that a lot of students recognize. Student finances has been a historically broken system.”
As a result, he said that many groups received a budget of $0 this fall.
Armstrong reflected on his work with the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) to make improvements, like expediting the allocation process and clarifying and expanding the role of the Student Activities Commission, which is SGA’s funding board.
Weber would like to continue these efforts as executive treasurer.
“The funding operation at SGA is completely broken,” Weber said. “I’m the treasurer of two other clubs, and I can speak firsthand to the fact that it’s absolutely ridiculous to try to get funding.”
Armstrong and Weber stated that their ticket would work to increase the number of staff at both the Counseling Center and the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). OIE is in charge of appropriately responding to reports of sexual misconduct in accordance with federal Title IX regulations.
Weber called for greater dialogue between students and administrators on issues like the private police force.
Similarly, Maras plans to improve communication between SGA and the student body by updating the website and sending monthly reports.
“These things are very important for the well-being of the students so they can know what the people who they picked to represent them are up to,” Maras said. “We want students to know that SGA is on their side. It doesn’t have to be an ‘us versus them’ thing.”
Armstrong stressed the need for students to know the details of SGA’s weekly meetings with University leaderhsip.
Weber echoed Armstrong’s sentiments.
“The student body doesn’t think that SGA is doing things. It’s as if SGA is doing nothing because that means that the student body isn’t feeling those changes,” he said. “We need to fix the image that the student body has of SGA.”
To that end, he aims to make SGA more efficient and productive.
Weber suggested that the details of bills be discussed in committee instead of argued over at meetings.
Maras also emphasized the need to reform the culture of SGA.
She highlighted her various experiences in communications both on- and off-campus.
“I’m very familiar with the policy research aspect that the Secretary’s in charge of overseeing,” she said.
Armstrong believes that his ticket offers a unique combination of outsider perspective and institutional memory.
Weber agreed, noting that there is potential value to being a new member of SGA.
“When you’ve been on SGA… you see how SGA has been as how it always has to be,” he said. “When you come in from the outside, you come in with fresh ideas and say, ‘No, I don’t think it has to continue being like this. We can change it for the better.’”
Sam Mollin’s Platform
One pillar of Mollin’s platform is empowering student organizations, whose budgets and activities have been restricted by SLI, he said.
“If the administration takes more and more control over our lives, if we have fewer outlets to explore the passions that we came to Hopkins to explore — when it was advertised that there would be plenty of resources to do so — then we lose out on the ability… to have the best events that we possibly can to relieve stress and improve mental health,” he said.
Mollin plans to communicate with the Parents Fund directly instead of interfacing with SLI Director Calvin Smith Jr., who he believes has not effectively addressed budgetary and policy issues. He cited Spring Fair’s organizational review as an example of this issue.
Mollin argued that his role in SGA’s Powers and Authorities Resolution during spring 2018 makes him a strong candidate.
The bill, intended to expand SGA’s influence over the University’s decisions, resulted in the 2018-19 SGA referendum, which he helped pass. Over 2000 students called for an undergraduate observer member on the Board of Trustees, a goal of Mollin’s.
According to Mollin, SGA has inadequately addressed student concerns this year.
He noted a lack of transparency this year, citing SGA’s recurrent failures to update its records and roster online.
“We can’t expect the student body to engage with us if they don’t know what we’re doing and they don’t even know who we are,” he said.
According to Mollin, University leaders have previously questioned in meetings whether SGA truly represents the entire student body.
“The fact that SGA has had so little traction with the student body makes it difficult in meetings with administrators,” he said.
Mollin stated that his past experience as a political organizer for the New York State Democratic Party will enable him to inspire students and administrators to take SGA more seriously.
In addition, Mollin aims to expand the Blue Jay Shuttle Service and phase out single-use water bottles on campus.
He also hopes to increase staffing at the Counseling Center so that students can receive more individualized resources and attention.
Mollin believes that the semester he spent away from SGA gives him a valuable perspective.
“Every year, we see candidates who run on a platform of transparency, engagement and changing things for the student body, and we elect the same sort of candidates every year,” he said. “And then nothing changes.”
Sam Mollin is a staff writer, and Greta Maras and Addy Perlman are contributing writers for The News-Letter. They were not involved in the reporting, writing or editing of this article.