Junior Abigail Semple will assume the Student Government Association executive treasurer position for the 2019–20 academic year after sophomore Joseph Davidi and freshman Brady Baca both declined the job.
Davidi and Baca’s deferral of the position puts Semple in control of nearly $1 million in student organization funding and ties up a race marked by constant uncertainty. Davidi and Baca, the only two balloted candidates for SGA executive treasurer, dropped out of the race a week before students cast their votes. SGA bylaws indicate that if the winner declines the job, the position goes to the person with the next highest vote count.
Current Executive Treasurer Ian Mandt said he never thought he would see a campaign for treasurer as surreal as this one. Mandt, who graduates this semester, said he hopes the enthusiasm transfers to future SGA races.
“Every couple of days there would be a different number of candidates, and now the ballots have been tallied [and] the person who was elected turned it down,” he said in an interview. “In the four years that I’ve been here, I haven’t seen that, and looking back to past elections I haven’t seen something similar … so, it’s surprising.”
The spring 2019 election drew 875 undergraduate votes compared to 265 votes from the spring 2018 election—a 230 percent increase. Combining the Voice Your Choice initiative and SGA elections into one ballot may have contributed to the increased turnout, Mandt previously told the Beacon.
Davidi secured a landslide victory over both Semple and Baca with 383 votes. Baca drew 240 votes while Semple managed to earn 86. Following Semple’s 297-vote loss to Davidi, she critiqued the SGA election process for favoring balloted candidates over write-ins.
“The way our school does write-in elections, it’s really difficult to win unless you’re running unopposed,” she said in an interview. “If there is somebody that is on the ballot it’s easier to just click than to type someone’s name in.”
Write-in candidates historically face difficulties against balloted candidates in political contests. In the spring 2018 election, senior and current Executive President Jess Guida went up against junior Christopher Henderson-West for the executive presidential race last year. Guida ran a traditional balloted campaign and beat Henderson-West’s write-in candidacy by 41 votes.
Davidi, currently an SGA treasury team member, said he took the weekend after finding out he won to think the position over while working on both the EVVYs Gala and the SGA annual budgetary review process. The sophomore said he may consider working on the treasury team again; however, his future plans do not involve serving in an elected position.
“The final decision came after sitting through most of ABR and realizing that this is not something I can do at the same time with everything else,” he said in an interview. “[Mandt] had mentioned that he used to do a lot of TV stuff, similar to me, and had to pull it back because of treasury … I don’t want to do that.”
Once Semple takes office in the fall, she said she wants to focus on informing students on how the reimbursement process works.
“I think one of the biggest issues we have with our reimbursement process is it takes a very long time because oftentimes people submit forms and they get put on hold because they weren’t submitted correctly,” she said. “I think that if we’re able to inform more students about how to do it correctly, then that process would become a lot shorter. I think that there are creative ways to solve that problem.”
Semple worked as Emerson Independent Video’s business manager this semester and said she does not foresee any conflicts of interest arising in the future during ABR sessions or when processing appeals.
“I have a lot of affection for EIV—we’re a very large student organization, we’re a very complex student organization,” she said. “There is not a place for favoritism in the SGA position because there are checks and balances, there are faculty advisors that are overseeing the work that you’re doing.”
Semple said she will treat EIV’s appeals and the ABR process in spring 2020 the same as any other organization.
“If anything, I know exactly where EIV hides their ABR bull—,” she said.
At times, the election focused heavily on candidates’ fitness for the position.
Two weeks ago, Baca faced repeated criticism of his qualifications for a job that SGA officials described as stressful and paperwork-heavy. When announcing his decision to drop out, the freshman told the Beacon that the role of executive treasurer did not coincide with his wish to address financial equity and economic inequality at the college.
Baca did not respond to repeated requests over the phone for comment at the time of publication.