Nineteen candidates win student government positions in low turnout elections

An+SGA+meeting+at+the+beginning+of+the+2019-20+academic+year.+

Photo: The Berkeley Beacon Archives

An SGA meeting at the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year.

By Frankie Rowley, Deputy Express Editor

The Student Government Association’s spring 2021 elections turned out just 140 students, the lowest total for a spring elections cycle, where each SGA position is up for grabs, in at least five years.

In spring 2020, 387 students voted in the spring elections—276 percent higher turnout than this spring. In the spring of 2019, the organization saw the highest turnout since 2009 with 875 students taking to the polls. Typically, the elections amassed over 200 voters. 

jehan ayesha-wirasto, SGA’s current executive vice president, ran unopposed for the executive presidency, the organization’s top leadership position—securing 85 percent of the vote. ayesha-wirasto lost their previous bid for the presidency, in last spring’s election, to Lark Rodenbush.

Pranit Chand, a former Marlboro College student, ran a write-in campaign to secure the executive vice presidency, winning 56 percent of the vote. 

Chand and ayesha-wirasto will lead SGA as the organization continues to adapt to a new legislative model set in place last spring with the passage of a new constitution. This year, the organization passed several pieces of legislation—all of which have yet to spur policy change by college officials. 

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Chand, who served as SGA’s IDIP senator during the 2020-21 academic year, said he hopes to use his new position to improve student accessibility to college resources, given his own difficulties when he first arrived.  

“I’m not saying that Emerson does not have resources, we have a lot of resources… just accessing [them is] complicated,” Chand said. “Making sure there’s a way that students get access to [Emerson’s resources] would be one of my first priorities to start when I get into [office].”

Chand also said he plans to bring some of Marlboro’s student-centered structure to Emerson, noting that the inclusion of students on the college’s calendar committee, which sets the academic calendar each semester, was derived from Marlboro practices. 

“The idea of Marlboro was a community where students were in charge, where the student government played a huge role in everything we did,” he said. “Those ideas are something I really appreciated learning from Marlboro, and I want to bring over to Emerson.”

Former Executive President Lindsay Debrosse won the seat of executive treasurer, taking 60 percent of the vote against challenger Azat Jumadurdyyev. The treasurer position, responsible for doling out funding to student organizations at the college, has been vacant since the beginning of the spring term. The vacancy emerged after Thomas Coughlin, who was appointed to the treasurership in August, decided against running for reelection. 

Debrosse said she wanted to learn more about the college’s finances due to her personal experience as a first generation low-income student at Emerson. 

“I really want to make it easier for students like me,” Debrosse said. “A lot of times colleges advertise to low-income students to reel them in, and then they’re abandoned, at least financially. There’s no persistent, active help out there for students like me.”

As for winners of the other races:  

  • Communication Sciences and Disorders Senator: Marissa Palmejar
  • Journalism Senator: Sharon Boateng
  • Performing Arts Senator: Anthony Feola
  • Visual and Media Arts Senator: Neiko Pittman
  • Class of 2022 President: Aidan Leary
  • Class of 2022 Vice President: Mallory Shofi 
  • Class of 2022 Treasurer: Anton Lee
  • Class of 2023 President: Sisel Gelman
  • Class of 2023 Vice President: Helen Frazer
  • Class of 2023 Treasurer: Koby Polaski 
  • Class of 2024 President: Aryan Chaudhari 
  • Class of 2024 Vice President: Julia DaSilva-Novotny
  • Class of 2024 Treasurer: Sydney Cohen
  • Class of 2024 Secretary: Marly Kaufman
  • Class of 2024 Student Experience Senator: Charlene Cheung
  • Class of 2024 Financial Equity Senator: Nyasia Mayes

Pittman and Boateng were both initially appointed in student assembly meetings during the spring semester. Boateng won 93 percent of the overall votes and Pittman won 88 percent. 

They are joined in the academic senate by newcomers Anthony Feola, who won 33 percent of the votes, and Marissa Palmejar, who were elected as senators for performing arts and communication sciences, respectively. Palmejar won 100 percent of the votes cast for her position — defeating Plousadis in only the third contested race of the election cycle. 

The Class of 2024 filled every seat in their class council, with each candidate participating in uncontested races. Chaudhari was reelected as class president—winning 75 percent of the total votes—and was one of two council members to run on the ballot. DaSilva-Novotny, Cohen, Kaufman, and Cheung were all elected via write-in campaigns to the positions of council vice president, treasurer, secretary, and student experience senator, respectively. 

DaSilva-Novotny won 42 percent of the vote, Cohen won 50 percent, Kaufman won 63 percent, and Cheung won 56 percent. 

Cheung said her priority as student experience senator would be to help students understand what their tuition money is being used for. 

“I want Emerson students to know what their tuition is going towards and all the amenities that Emerson has,” she said in an interview.

Nyasia Mayes was elected as financial equity senator for the class of 2024 after being appointed to the position on a provisional basis during a student assembly meeting this semester. She won 40 percent of the votes cast for her position.

In the Class of 2023, incumbents Sisel Gelman, Koby Polaski, and Helen Frazer, were all re-elected to their roles of class president, treasurer, and vice president, respectively. The incumbents won 91, 86, and 63 percent of the total votes respectively. 

Aidan Leary and Anton Lee won re-election to their roles of class of 2022 president and class of 2022 treasurer, respectively, while newcomer Mallory Shofi claimed the role of council  vice president and 57 percent of the votes. Leary won 82 percent and Lee won 71 percent of the votes.

The elections leave SGA once again staring down a number of vacancies across the organization, particularly in its legislative bodies — the academic senate, student experience senate, and financial equity committee.