The Committee on Student Elections (CSE) announced the results of the 2020-21 Student Government Association (SGA) Class Council elections on Monday, April 20. Voter turnout decreased from 1508 to 1173 votes, a 22 percent decrease from last year’s.
In an email to The News-Letter, CSE Chair Bahira Ahmed noted that, although these numbers are lower than last year’s, they are up from 2018. As a result, she believes that is hard to know whether or not the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is responsible for the decrease in voter participation.
Ahmed added that the CSE adapted the election process after the cancellation of in-person classes by recording online information sessions and eliminating the candidate-petition process.
“One of the most important things I learned from this election is how much Hopkins students can adapt to change in the face of adversity,” Ahmed wrote. “While conducting an online election is far from ideal, it was still quite impressive to see the creativity among candidates in trying to get their platforms across.”
Running unopposed, Junior Class Senator William Cho was elected senior class president with 196 votes. The incumbent class president, Isaac Lucas, did not run for re-election.
Sophomore Class President Nathan Mudrak was elected junior class president with 311 votes.
Freshman Class Senator Anthony Singleton was elected sophomore class president with 209 votes. He ran against Raymond Perez and Reid Brotmann, who received 85 votes and 79 votes, respectively. Incumbent Freshman Class President Breanna Soldatelli did not run, as she was elected executive secretary last month.
Students who ran for executive SGA positions earlier in the semester and lost were unable to officially run for class council. However, some of these students ran write-in campaigns.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Cho emphasized the need for a strong transition period for incoming representatives. He noted that in past years, a confusion over roles has led to a lack of productivity for SGA. However, Cho recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic will make transitioning especially hard this year.
Cho aims to increase transparency by helping student leaders navigate the spaces which SGA and Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) create for them, particularly when it comes to budget allocations and funding.
“We need to reach out to student leaders and go out of our way so they understand what the process looks like from both SGA’s end and SLI’s end rather than just saying ‘the form is on our website,’ or ‘the directions were at the beginning of the form,’” Cho said. “We’ve seen that time and time again that just because we make information available doesn’t mean it's accessible.”
In addition, Cho pointed out that Hopkins students, busy as they are, are often too engaged in other work to follow what SGA is doing. Cho hopes to remedy this by actively seeking out Hopkins students’ opinions in ways that are more personal than email.
“I think encouraging events that are even just standing in front of Brody and saying, ‘Hey, do you have a moment to speak to us about these relevant issues on campus?’, would go miles,” Cho said. “It’s not as easy as you would think to gauge public opinion sometimes.”
Singleton agreed that communication between the student body and SGA and administrators is crucial to improving the quality of life at Hopkins.
“A lot of the problems going on right now between administration and the student body in general can be solved by that communication,” he said. “I want to continue that spirit of interacting with the student body, listening to their concerns and getting some real actionable change done.”
While he has concerns that the student body may not return to campus during the fall due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he plans to create as much of a sense of normalcy as possible.
He argued that there are still ways to build community even if students are not physically in the same space.
“I’m still hopeful that things we’re working on can still get done. All of our meetings... can still go on through Zoom. We’re looking at having more virtual events with people in the class like Netflix party, movie nights, game nights, stuff like that,” he said. “Even though it’s definitely a curveball, I think that we will continue to adapt, we will make it work no matter what.”
Similarly, Mudrak intends to continue some of the programs he implemented in the past year, such as sending out a sophomore-specific email regularly and including a place for students to give anonymous feedback. In an email to The News-Letter, he underscored the importance of preparing for a continued school closure in advance.
“The class of 2022 already had one of our signature events cancelled because of COVID-19, April’s Garden Party — so we’re going to work hard on preparing contingency plans to ensure that even in the case of a school closure, we don't have to cancel a second,” he wrote.
As junior class president, he also hopes to emphasize student-focused action.
“Student organizations are the life-blood of our campus, and they are subject to more bureaucratic obstacles than imposed on organizations at any of our peer institutions,” Mudrak wrote. “To improve student life here, we should work on improving the current onus of student life: our organizations.”
One of his focuses, he added, concerns the internal restructuring of SGA.
“Our internal inefficiencies, insufficient transparency, and ineffective communication with students hinders the progress of any other initiatives we work on; improving how we operate internally will, I hope, dramatically improve our ability to advocate on behalf of students on a range of issues,” he wrote.
Next year’s senior class council will include Ananya Kalahasti, Julia Zeng, CiCi Zhang, Mahnoor Abid, Keidai Lee and JJ Tie. No additional candidates ran. The rising senior class had the lowest voter turnout, with 239 current juniors voting.
Current Sophomore Class Senators Talal Widatalla and Megan Chien, along with Veda Chanda, Subha Bhatta, Grace Wang and Angela Hussain, will comprise next year’s junior class council. They ran against current Sophomore Class Senator Katie Li and Elijah Eaton, Mazen Sedrat, Puru Sadh and Alex Wang. There were 535 votes from current sophomores.
Talia Shadroui, Mariano Thomas, Chinat Yu, Karen He, Obi Onyinanya and Eric Yang were elected sophomore class senators, from the 399 current freshman who voted. Thomas, Yu and He are current freshman class senators. They ran against Jason Tso and Olufemi Agabalogun.
CSE Chair Bahira Ahmed emphasized her hopes for the future of SGA.
“I am looking forward to seeing what this new group of senators will do after I graduate. They have already shown to me how passionate they are about this school and about making their voices heard by becoming elected officials,” she wrote. “A lot of them have never been in SGA and are going to bring fresh, new ideas to the SGA to make Hopkins a better place to call home.”