The candidates for the 2023–24 Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Board engaged in a debate on March 9. They discussed administrative issues at the University and their plans to address existing problems.
At the debate, all candidates briefly introduced themselves then responded to debate questions, some of which were posed by an online audience.
The first question pertained to how candidates would represent and serve the diversity of the student body at the University.
Sean Li, a current freshman class senator running for executive treasurer, shared multiple ways that minority groups could be incorporated and represented, such as through SGA caucuses. Executive presidential candidate Nver Saghatelyan said that mentorship and events that promote diversity on campus are extremely important. Executive presidential candidate Clement Adedeji noted that the best way to serve any ethnic minority is to include them in conversations.
Executive presidential candidate Ryan Chou mentioned a requirement for diversity and minority SGA caucuses that may be overlooked by those less familiar with SGA.
“One thing that candidates who aren't as familiar with the transition might not be as aware of is that there is going to be a transition where caucuses will be required to maintain 20 active members to maintain their status as a caucus in SGA,” he said.
The candidates also discussed potential improvements in mental health resources. Alisa Fedotova, a current freshman class senator running for chair of programming, advocated for developing an anonymous platform where students can share their experiences and support each other. She also suggested hosting events that would allow students to connect with counselors or find more resources for support.
Amy Li, a current freshman class senator running for secretary, stated that more emphasis should be placed on improving the availability of and services offered at the Counseling Center.
“I'll be urging for more funding for the Counseling Center to ensure that these counselors are actually getting the training necessary so they can interact with students in a way that... [makes] students feel safe and comfortable to actually talk to them about their problems and perhaps to seek further help with their mental health,“ she said.
Amy Li noted that one issue exacerbating mental health issues is the fact that the student body does not want to share what they are struggling with due to embarrassment and stigmatization.
Executive presidential candidate James Yoon reinforced Li’s stance.
"We are often forgetting about how easy it is to get into anxiety, how easy it is to get into depression," Yoon said. "We need to get through this stigma... and that also involves going to the professors and [faculty] that stand up for the students."
Candidates then discussed their stance on public safety issues. Saghatelyan proposed implementing more lighting systems on and around campus to ensure a safer environment at night. To avoid light pollution, he supports motion-activated lights and reflective surfaces.
Chou described past SGA efforts to coordinate with the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD) and encourage greater accountability and transparency.
Current junior Class Senator and Executive Treasurer candidate Jenny Chen called for an increase in funding to develop transportation programs and employ more drivers.
Jackson Morris, a current sophomore class senator and candidate for vice president, said that an important part of improving public safety is making sure that the culture surrounding the JHPD is positive.
“We need to make sure that students uphold the accountability measures that they have already passed and make sure that we have access to the training materials to make sure we are actually seeing changes,” he said.
Current junior Class Senator and candidate for chair of programming Shalala Leny highlighted the current disconnect between the student body and the Public Safety department.
“There needs to be more connection between what students want for public safety and what Public Safety actually does,” she said.
Adedeji responded to a question about shared campus experience and Greek life stigma.
“This divide comes from no cross-talk between different student groups,“ he said. “Having members from various parts of campus, such as athletes, [Fraternity and Sorority Life] members and cultural groups, and facilitating this cross-talk should help with this alienating effect.”
Regarding innovative acts that the University could implement, Saghatelyan proposed cooperating with other universities' student bodies to create a more connected and collaborative academic community, driving positive change on Hopkins campuses and beyond.
On the topic of new initiatives, Amy Li said her plans for maintaining SGA infrastructure consists of two parts: preserving the legacy of SGA’s graduates and creating an SGA that endures past one senate.
“I hope to establish structures to facilitate easier transitions into the SGA roles in all three branches and initiate efficiency in educating SGA members, such as composing strong, official transition documents and hosting an informative SGA orientation,” she said. “All of these goals are aimed at keeping SGA aligned with its values of representing the student body and preventing violations in checks and balances.”
In an interview with The News-Letter, Chou commented on the debate and the upcoming SGA election. He stated that the debate could be improved by allowing opportunities for candidates to challenge the statements made by other candidates.
“A candidate could share a vague platform promise, and members of the student body who were not extremely familiar with SGA would have no context as to whether or not it was actually feasible,” he said.
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