Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
July 29, 2021

SGA Exec. Board candidates discuss their platforms in a noncompetitive election

By ISHAN KALBURGE | March 25, 2021

2021-sga-candidates

LAKSHAY SOOD/LAYOUT EDITOR

Of the four SGA executive board positions available, three are uncontested.

The candidates for the 2021-22 Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Board include a single ticket, SMART, and one independent candidate, Karen He. For the second year, the executive board election will coincide with SGA class council elections. Voting will begin after the candidate debate on Thursday and end on Sunday.

Unlike last year, when three candidates ran for executive president, this year’s election is highly noncompetitive with three out of the four positions being uncontested.

Junior Mehak Ali is running for executive president on the SMART ticket, alongside sophomore Breanna Soldatelli for executive vice president, freshman Elaina Regier for executive secretary and freshman Harvey McGuinness for executive treasurer. Ali and Soldatelli are members of the 2020-21 Executive Board, serving as executive vice president and executive secretary, respectively. Regier and McGuinness are both freshman class senators.

Sophomore Karen He is an independent candidate running for executive treasurer. She is an incumbent sophomore class senator.

SMART’s Platform

According to Soldatelli, one of SMART’s core campaign platforms is to promote sustainability on campus. She believes that the to-go dining system has significantly increased food waste this semester. Going forward, she hopes to work toward minimizing container waste and increasing the number of composting bins for students living both on and off campus.

Soldatelli added that she will prioritize sustainability concerns regarding the construction of the new student center.

“We want to come up with ways to integrate green energy into the student center,” she said. “This is something in the here and now that is going to be here for most of our presidency.”

In addition to sustainability, Regier stated that the ticket aims to amplify student voices.

“We want to make sure that there is a student voice in the room everywhere and that we have good opportunities to meet with and build relationships with admin,” she said. “On the student side, we can definitely get more involved with inter-class events so that it’s not just freshmen with freshmen or sophomores with sophomores.”

Ali added that SMART plans to host a student organization forum in the fall to get input from student leaders and listen to student concerns. 

She pointed to her current position within SGA, citing the importance of her existing knowledge of executive duties.

“It’s really important to have someone who has been there before to transition the board,” she said. “Since I am VP right now, my job is to go to meetings with [Executive President] Sam [Mollin], and the meetings I go to have given me a format and basis for how to interact with people and how to get things done.”

With respect to funding for student groups, McGuinness stressed that if elected, he will streamline the budgeting process.

“I was tasked with rewriting all of the finance guidelines for this year, and understanding that is an accessibility barrier in and of itself,” he said.

McGuinness also noted that the platform pledges to improve Student Disability Services (SDS).

“I am a disabled student,“ he said. “I had to fill out all those Student Disability Services accommodations, and that was a real pain. When you see an individual, you don’t get the whole story, and our platform wants to champion that.”

Ali stated that SMART actively took student feedback to craft a platform.

“We have had public input periods where students have come to discuss things that they want SGA to focus on, and one of the big things was sustainability. We’ve really incorporated that into our platform,” she said. “Standardizing training for professors and [teaching assistants] has been a longstanding thing that people have told us about, so a lot of suggestions we have right now on our platform are things that we know the student body is interested in advocating for.”

Candidates also responded to criticisms of SGA, specifically concerns that were published in an op-ed by former Senior Class Senator Julia Zeng. The article explained why she resigned from SGA, noting issues with work ethic, a lack of guiding documents and a poor pipeline for receiving student input.

Ali argued that although Zeng’s comments highlighted SGA’s shortcomings regarding accountability and transparency, the criticism was not reflective of her own experience in SGA.

“It might have been an individual experience and not one that everyone collectively shares,” she said. “One thing [Zeng] was really pushing when she was on SGA was training for leadership and teamwork, and we took her suggestions and implemented them. We had separate training for class president and for committee chairs.”

Soldatelli, however, agreed with some of Zeng’s overall sentiments.

“Her bottom line was we need people to run for SGA, which is terrific. I wish more people took more interest in SGA and more people ran,” she said. “It’s kind of weird that we have nobody contesting the number one student voice for Hopkins. So I think her article at least brought light to that situation.”

Soldatelli explained that she hopes the SMART platform will inspire students to pursue leadership within SGA.

“I hope with the work we do over this coming year, if we do get elected, that we will make more people aware of what SGA does and make more people who have great ideas want to run for SGA,” she said.

Karen He’s Platform

He stated that as executive treasurer her first priority would be to improve SGA communication regarding funding for student organizations.

“I realized that there were lots of problems with funding student groups and communication with them,” she said. “The reason I wanted to run for executive treasurer is that it would give me a better platform to improve connections with student groups and the funding process.”

He strongly believes that the first step in helping student groups with their finances will be through increasing awareness about SGA’s funding initiatives. She argued that if SGA made its decisions about funding procedures more transparent and understandable, more groups would have access to adequate funding.

“A big thing with SGA is people don’t know what we do. We funded about 110 groups for the spring semester allocation, and there are still some things we do but student groups don’t know,” she said. “There’s a bit of a missing gap that I want to fix.”

As the Chair of the Finance Committee this semester, He stated that she is best prepared to take on the role of executive treasurer and implement needed reforms.

“By already having some lines of communication with campus groups and with student organization leaders, I will be able to [ensure] that people know what’s happening,” she said. “There are a lot of things that me and Addy [Perlman], our executive treasurer currently, do that the rest of the Finance Committee just doesn’t do. To not be there for that would make it a very hard transition into next year.” 

Correction: The original version of this article repeatedly misspelled McGuinness as McGuiness.

The News-Letter regrets this error.

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