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Students elect new SGA Exec. Board amid COVID-19 outbreak

By RUDY MALCOM | March 13, 2020

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The CSE announced the 2020-21 SGA executive board on Friday.

The Committee on Student Elections (CSE) announced the results of the Student Government Association (SGA) executive board elections on Friday, March 13. Three out of four members of the Focus Forward ticket and one independent candidate won seats, beating out the other candidates. 

The 2020-21 SGA executive board will include junior Sam Mollin as executive president, sophomore Mehak Ali as executive vice president, freshman Breanna Soldatelli as executive secretary and junior Addy Perlman as executive treasurer. Mollin ran as an independent candidate.

Ali, Soldatelli, Perlman and sophomore Pritika Parmar comprised the Focus Forward ticket, while sophomore Eric Armstrong and freshmen Greta Maras and Daniel Weber comprised the Taking Flight ticket. Three of the executive board positions were contested, with three candidates running for executive president, two candidates running for executive secretary and executive treasurer and Ali running uncontested for executive vice president.

Mollin secured the position of executive president with 754 votes, while Parmar followed with 306 and Armstrong received 292.

Ali received 1094 votes for executive vice president.

Soldatelli received 731 votes for executive secretary, while Maras received 443. 

Perlman won as executive treasurer with 729 votes, and Weber followed with 465.

A total of 1,435 voters participated in the election, marking a decrease of 12 percent from last year, when a total of 1,627 students voted. 

In an email to The News-Letter, CSE Chair Bahira Ahmed noted that this year’s elections were moved to an earlier date in order to extend the transition period between the incoming and outgoing executive boards. 

“We are extremely glad we pushed up the election cycle, given the current circumstances with school closures, as we will have a functioning Executive Board in place for next year,” she wrote. “We believe the results are a true reflection of those who put in the most effort and dedication into their campaign and into addressing the real needs of students.”

Amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in-person classes are canceled through at least April 12. Following spring break, the University will transition to remote instruction for all undergraduate courses.

By Friday, the University had emailed all residential students requiring them to leave campus by 5 p.m. on March 15, with certain exceptions for those “who cannot return home due to international travel restrictions, financial hardship or other extraordinary circumstances,” Vice Provost for Student Affairs Alanna Shanahan wrote. 

Mollin, who previously served as a senator on the freshman and sophomore class councils, criticized the University for the short notice of this announcement. He believes that SGA can help students by publicizing the Baltimore Mutual Aid Spreadsheet, which junior Bonnie Jin created to provide resources such as food, housing and emotional support to members of the Baltimore community. 

“SGA needs to start talking to administrators and make sure that, going forward, the University’s crisis response isn’t like this again,” he said. “SGA should make sure that there’s clear and consistent lines of communication.” 

Soldatelli, currently freshman class president, believes that SGA can serve as a liaison between students and administrators.

“The administration isn’t being clear with us about what’s going on,” she said.

She hopes to similarly increase transparency between SGA and the student body by regularly updating the group’s records, roster and social media online. 

To that end, Perlman, currently a junior class senator, plans to make student groups’ budgets, allocations and financial modules clearer and more accessible. 

“I want to be in continuous conversation and contact with student organizations and make sure that they have all the information they need and are involved in the whole process from start to finish,” she said.

Mollin stressed his goals of working with students to expand sustainability and mental health resources on campus.

“I want to make sure that the only time we’re talking to people isn’t just during election season,” he said. “I want to use my experience as a political organizer to really focus on engagement and make sure that we have a more active presence and we’re connecting students to the issues they care about.”

Ali, who aims to improve communication within SGA, echoed Mollin’s sentiments. 

“We definitely need to have more forums for student leaders to get involved,” she said.

She hopes that SGA will use Zoom, an online conference call platform, to continue to meet regularly and to receive updates on developments related to COVID-19 from administrators. She said she will convey this information to the student body.  

Perlman emphasized her belief that even while in-person classes are cancelled, SGA can address the needs of the student body. For instance, she intends to remind student groups of financial deadlines via email.

“Even if we’re not on campus, we’re still here to help you. That goes for all of SGA,” she said. “We’re all here to be your support and fight for you.” 

She predicts that the new executive board will convene virtually.

Mollin agreed with Perlman. 

“We still have online resources. We’re still able to communicate with each other,” he said. “Other than the physical swearing-in ceremony, which we can maybe do over Zoom, I’m confident that... we’ll be able to have a smooth transition going into next year.” 

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