Former SGA presidential candidate Ayesha takes over VP, completing quiet shakeup of top leadership

Student+Government+Association+Executive+Vice+President+Jehan+Ayesha.+

Media: Courtesy/Jehan Ayesha

Student Government Association Executive Vice President Jehan Ayesha.

The Student Government Association appointed rising sophomore Jehan Ayesha to its executive vice presidency Monday after a sudden shake up of the organization’s top leadership positions last month, SGA officials confirmed to The Beacon.

Ayesha served as SGA’s journalism senator for the 2019-20 academic year before mounting an unsuccessful write-in campaign for the executive presidency in April. 

The appointment serves as the latest in a series of unexpected changes to the organization’s leadership, following the resignation of former Executive President Claire Rodenbush, who won a highly contested race for the position. 

Lindsay Debrosse, who was initially elected to the vice presidency after running on a ticket with Ayesha, was elevated to the executive presidency after Rodenbush’s resignation.

The series of appointments and changes have happened behind closed doors, as meetings to make the changes have not been publicly announced and the organization has not openly commented beyond statements from advisor Jason Meier. 

We stand for community, fact-based journalism. What do you stand for?

Some things in life are essential; they touch us every single day. Good journalism is one of those things. It keeps us in the know as we hurry through our busy lives.

SGA’s constitution dictates that student assembly meetings are to be made public. But minutes from any meetings have also not been made publicly available.

Appointments are made by SGA’s executive president and are subject to a vote of approval from student assembly. In order for a vote of approval to be held, a meeting is constitutionally required to reach a quorum of at least half of the organization’s total voting officers.

As meetings have been held privately and minutes have not been released, there is no way to confirm SGA followed the constitutionally established process for the appointments.

Debrosse and Ayesha ran on a ticket together in the spring elections and received endorsements from much of SGA’s former leadership, including former Executive President Will Palauskas and former Executive Vice President Melissa Bordelon. Ayesha’s elevation to the vice presidency fulfills her and Debrosse’s vision for governing SGA together. 

“I feel great moving forward now that [Ayesha] is officially my VP and I’m excited to see what we can do as a team and hopefully lead SGA into some sort of new era,” Debrosse said.

Ayesha told The Beacon she intends to work with academic senators to ensure that students in their departments are getting the support they need given the challenges posed by hybrid learning.

“There’s so many formats and needs to be met… so I want to work with the academic senators to number one make sure every student is fulfilling their education requirements and learning what they want to learn and what they paid for and helping the senators fulfill their specific goals in their departments,” she said.

Ayesha said she believes SGA can do more to advocate on behalf of students, something Rodenbush made the centerpiece of her campaign, but can do so without attacking administrators.

“We simply need to do more to better advocate for these students, even though I do disagree with Claire’s methods and some of the words they said during the campaign and after, especially when they implied that none of us on SGA worked toward providing a safe space for Asian students and Jewish students,” she said. “But they were right that SGA as an org was not doing enough”

Debrosse and Ayesha served in SGA’s senate together during the spring semester which has prepared them to lead the organization, Ayesha said.

“I think our dynamic is going to be the key to really making the changes we want to see happen because… we’re able to hold the administration, staff, faculty and all these higher-ups accountable,” she said. “In doing so we want to make sure that students are uplifted and feel empowered and heard and whatever we do we definitely want to make sure it’s in accordance to the student body’s wishes”

SGA appointed Ayesha to her prior position as journalism senator in early August before elevating her to the executive vice presidency, Chief Justice Lilly Meehan-Egan said. She said the organization also appointed Ryan Jackson to serve as their communications senator, leaving SGA with five unfilled positions in its 11-person academic senate.

Meehan-Egan said that after Ayesha and Jackson were appointed to the senate via a two-thirds vote of student assembly, Debrosse recommended Ayesha be elevated to serve as President Pro Tempore of the academic senate. When there is a vacancy in the vice presidency, the President Pro Tempore fills the position. Ayesha was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the academic senate Monday, Meehan-Egan said.

The appointment method appears to have been roundabout and unnecessarily complicated, as Debrosse could have appointed Ayesha to be her vice president initially, rather than first appointing her as a senator.

The new executive board is responsible for leading SGA under its recently ratified constitution, which drastically alters the day-to-day functions of the organization by shifting it to a legislative model with the goal of passing resolutions pertaining to college policy. The previous constitution did not have an established system for passing legislation.

Debrosse will lead the organization from home while Ayesha plans to return to campus. 

Meier said in a phone interview that he is excited for the future of SGA with Debrosse and Ayesha at the helm.

“I’m really excited for Jehan and Lindsay to be able to work together, and they’re going to be a great duo,” he said.

The organization is expected to issue a press release regarding the appointments on Monday.

SGA is still without an executive treasurer following the spring elections where no one ran to replace outgoing treasurer Abigail Semple. The executive treasurer is responsible for much of SGA’s daily operations, overseeing over $1.2 million in funding for student organizations, and chairing the Financial Advisory Board and Financial Equity Committee. 

Debrosse told The Beacon that while the search for an executive treasurer is ongoing, she has identified a candidate who echoes her belief that SGA needs to do more to support low-income students at the college.

“First and foremost I want to make sure that people like me are also represented,” she said. “For me looking at previous treasures I understand that they came from very different backgrounds economically… and to me, that’s no longer really cutting it but I want to make sure that when they step into the position that they are also representing student like me, that don’t have the same kind of access or freedom financially”