Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 22, 2024

Our 2023–2024 SGA Exec. Board endorsements: Time to rebuild

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | March 13, 2023


With another spring semester, the next Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Board election is upon us. This year, most positions are not uncontested, which is a welcome improvement from years prior. We hope that the increased number of candidates marks the start of SGA building itself back up.

Here at The News-Letter, we’ve made our disappointment in SGA clear. The organization has historically failed to maintain the transparency and open communication with the student body that many representatives campaign on. When newly-elected candidates begin their terms, we hope they prioritize addressing these issues.

Several of the Executive Board candidates this year don’t have SGA experience, which presents both pros and cons. Newcomers may have a unique perspective on what students care about and how SGA can improve as an organization. However, we ultimately believe that SGA representatives should understand the institution they’re operating within.

Upon interviewing SGA Executive Board candidates, we endorse the following: Ryan Chou for executive president, Jackson Morris for executive vice president, Jenny Chen for executive treasurer, Shalala Leny for chair of programming and Amy Li for executive secretary.

Executive President: Ryan Chou

For the most competitive Executive Board race this year, we endorse the current Sophomore Class President Ryan Chou for Executive President. Though it is only his second year at Hopkins, Chou has quickly become one of the most recognizable SGA representatives on campus. He frequently uses social media to engage with students about SGA matters, which demonstrates his commitment to not only SGA but to incorporating input from the broader Hopkins community.

Chou is the only executive presidential candidate with SGA experience, a fact that he has made a key component of his campaign. While other candidates like junior Clement Adedeji make good points about bringing an outside perspective on student interests to SGA, we believe that this will not make much difference if candidates do not have a fundamental understanding of SGA’s structure and procedures. We appreciate ambition, but some of the other candidates’ overly lofty goals underscore their lack of knowledge on the limits of SGA’s power.

That being said, we acknowledge that Chou does not have a flawless track record. His recruitment methods for judiciary nominations were once called “unconstitutional” by a fellow representative. Further, his campaign goals are ambiguous: He claims he will fight to improve student life but does not specify what changes he will make or how they will be accomplished. 

If elected this year, we hope Chou shares and enacts concrete plans for improving student life and continues to keep the student body apprised of developments in SGA.

Executive Vice President: Jackson Morris

Although the race is uncontested, we endorse Jackson Morris for the position of executive vice president. Morris, a sophomore, has extensive experience in SGA. He has served as a senator for the Class of 2025 for two years, has been the chair of SGA Student Services for a year and is the inaugural SGA representative to the Cross-Institutional Student Advisory Committee. 

Some of his successes on SGA include increased advertising for Division-III athletic events around campus, better dietary labeling in the dining halls and the beginning of steps to create a prayer room in Brody Learning Commons. 

Morris, critical of SGA’s lack of transparency and timeliness, has clear plans to combat these issues by announcing timelines, keeping senators updated on Executive Board initiatives and holding coffee chats with other SGA representatives. 

Additionally, he highlights the need for Hopkins students to interact more with Baltimore, something we have noted here at The News-Letter. Beyond just proposing more off-campus activities, Morris suggests making efforts to bring the Baltimore community to Homewood.

We look forward to seeing how Morris lives up to his campaign promise of fostering connections between students, staff, faculty and alumni.

Executive Treasurer: Jenny Chen

We endorse Jenny Chen for the position of executive treasurer. As a junior class senator and member of the finance committee, Chen has proven her leadership through her extensive experience working with finance-related projects. We were especially impressed by the concrete examples of her past achievements, such as her leadership in writing and passing a resolution that secured $100,000 in additional funding for PILOT

In her platform, Chen describes her plan to make the finance committee more accessible to student organizations by hosting financial workshops and providing SGA funding for larger scale events. She also hopes to encourage engagement with the broader Baltimore community by introducing a secondary budget cap for Baltimore-related events. We hope that Chen carries out these goals and is transparent with how SGA funds student organizations and events.

The other candidate for the position of executive treasurer is Freshman Class Senator Sean Li, who has extensive high school treasurer experience. While Li rightfully emphasizes the importance of improving student mental health, he does not provide specifics on how he will achieve this goal as treasurer. Although he has relevant experience, Li ultimately lacks Chen’s exemplary track record.

Executive Chair of Programming: Shalala Leny

For executive chair of programming, we endorse Shalala Leny, who is currently a junior class senator. Leny has the expertise needed to succeed in this role, as she has firsthand experience working with vendors, putting events together and passing legislation. We appreciate her enthusiasm for this role, especially since it was Leny who first proposed creating a Programming Board to improve SGA event planning.

Freshman Class Senator Alisa Fedotova is also running for this position. She has experience organizing events like the fall barbecue event and the upcoming Freshman Formal. Her platform includes hosting more cultural events on campus, developing student-alumni relationships, improving communication with administration and making campus fun and engaging.

While we believe either candidate will succeed in this role, Leny stands out for the personality she brought to her responses and the clear vision she has for this position. Leny's commitment toward supporting diversity at Hopkins, including cultural groups and the LGBTQ community, is reflected in the bills she has helped write and pass, such as the African Student Association Fashion Show Funding Bill.

We hope that Leny continues to honor her commitment to planning events that are creative and accessible to all students.

Executive Secretary: Amy Li

For the uncontested position of executive secretary, we endorse Amy Li. Her clear goals to post meeting agendas to the public and create Instagram stories after every senate meeting reflect her understanding of the value of transparency. With experience as a freshman class senator and as a member of her hometown’s Mayor Youth Engagement Council, Li is well-prepared for the role.

As an editorial board, we want to emphasize the importance of the executive secretary position. The executive secretary acts as a bridge between the student body and SGA, and SGA cannot continue to call themselves representatives without clearly informing the student body of their work.

Currently, the SGA website is clearly out of date; the uploaded minutes from this academic year contain attendance details from 2021–2022 and do not have updated agendas. Li has her work cut out for her, and we hope that she will carry out all the goals she has set in establishing transparency with the student body.

We at The News-Letter haven’t been shy about critiquing SGA in the past, but we are hopeful that the members of next year’s Executive Board — whoever they may be — will take steps to repair SGA’s relationship and engagement with students. And if they don’t, you can expect to hear it from us next semester.

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