Junior Abigail Semple launched her write-in campaign and joined a contentious Student Government Association executive treasurer’s race on Tuesday as freshman candidate Brady Baca continues to face criticism over his qualifications for the job.
The new challenger for executive treasurer will face Baca in what has become a race centered around each candidate’s fitness for the job. The same day SGA hosted its second-semester press night, less than a week before the spring general elections, Semple entered the race as a write-in candidate—a strategy political contenders have historically struggled to win with.
In her first public appearance since declaring her candidacy, Semple presented her platform to more than a hundred students in Center Stage on Tuesday night.
As the current business manager for Emerson Independent Video, one of the largest student organizations, Semple said she plans to focus her campaign on streamlining SGA’s reimbursement process and continuing current Executive Treasurer Ian Mandt’s financial initiative to release partial student organization budgets. Baca’s policies relate to financial advocacy, transparency, and working with faculty and staff unions.
“[Students] should vote for me because my first priority is the day-to-day operations of being an SGA executive treasurer,” Semple said.
Mandt said Semple’s prior experience of managing the finances for a student organization is an advantage.
“Voters need to look for a candidate who knows how to support organizations first and foremost before looking at any of the additional stuff that comes with campaigning or with the position,” Mandt said in an interview during press night. “My hope is that students will understand the impact of the position on the day-to-day experience and recognize that when they cast their ballots.”
As a visual and media arts major from New Jersey, Semple said she plans to campaign by talking to students at the college in person rather than generating a heavy social media presence.
The campaign strategy Semple described is resemblant of former Executive President Candidate Christopher Henderson-West’s non-traditional write-in campaign in spring 2018. The then-presidential hopeful lost by 41 votes to SGA Executive President Jess Guida.
“The advantage goes to candidates who are currently on the ballot, and [Semple] is going to have a challenge,” Mandt said.
While the race makes its way into the final week of campaigning, Semple joins multiple student politicians who have criticized Baca’s qualifications for a paperwork-heavy position that deems advocacy work secondary to its day-to-day functions.
When sophomore Joseph Davidi left the race last week—leaving Baca as the sole contender—several SGA officials promptly questioned the freshman’s fitness for a position with almost complete control of $1 million in student organization funding.
“[Baca] is loud and I think he rubs a few the wrong way, and I think that I have a lot more experience than he does in this capacity,” Semple said in an interview. “I don’t know if [Baca] is really ready to take on that extra responsibility of being responsible for literally every single student at Emerson who submits a reimbursement form.”
Baca said he attended the weekly treasury office hours twice in an attempt to increase his knowledge of the role. Mandt confirmed in a statement to the Beacon that Baca attended the Feb. 28 and March 21 office hours.
“I have been making an effort to make sure that my knowledge of the role is necessary and up to the caliber that is required to continue the work that [Mandt] has accomplished in his tenure,” Baca said in an interview with the Beacon.
Davidi, who remains on the ballot because of an SGA election technicality, said he will reassess his options should he win. While Davidi does not plan to actively campaign for the position, he did speak during press night about the responsibilities of the executive treasurer, emphasizing its relationship with student organizations. The sophomore currently serves on the treasury team as a non-elected official.
“I feel like [Baca’s] lack of experience is concerning especially with the amount of paperwork and the amount of student organizations that you need to assist as the treasurer,” Davidi said.
Baca said his work as the freshman class senator and experience in politics and activism outside of the college makes him qualified for the position.
“What really matters is that we need a treasurer who knows how to organize, to hold people accountable, who has clearly stated goals of improving the lives of average students in this school, and working toward meeting those goals with a specific plan of action,” he said. “I think from that perspective … I significantly outclass both Davidi and Semple.”
Guida said she finds the information Baca previously disseminated in a video on social media, where he partially faulted administrators for high tuition, as alarming to voters. While she said the criticism is not personal, it does concern her as a student of the college.
“Administrators are not the enemy, staff are not the enemy, faculty are not the enemy, but because people view them as this overarching Emerson College, they get viewed as the enemy when really they can be an avenue to create change,” she said in an interview.
Baca opened his SGA press night speech by emphasizing the college’s expensive tuition.
“I just want to keep things short and sweet and real nice and stuff, so I’m just going to start off by saying that you know my personal opinion: I think Emerson is kind of f—ing expensive,” he said during his speech. “I mean, am I wrong? They just raised the tuition hikes. I mean we can all see it on our email—that they don’t tell us about beforehand.”
Although Baca alleges that the college does not warn students of tuition increases, Director of Media Relations Michelle Gaseau previously told the Beacon that entering students and families are counseled to anticipate and plan for an annual 3–5 percent increase in tuition.