The Student Government Association’s spring 2020 election features 19 students running for political office against the backdrop of a pandemic and a brand new organizational structure. The race is the first time candidates have to campaign entirely on virtual platforms without Press Night, a critical opportunity for candidates to share their message.
Following the ratification of a new constitution by the student body last Tuesday, candidates this semester are preparing to enter a radically different SGA, one focused on working to pass legislation to enact change at the college.
The organization’s new constitution fundamentally changes class council. Class senators will now be elected to serve in either the Student Experience Senate or the Financial Equity Committee—there are no contested races in class council. The Academic Senate is one of the structures least impacted by the change, but will now be focused on working with the other branches of SGA to better represent students.
Only two races in the Academic Senate feature more than one candidate: performing arts senator and visual and media arts senator.
Performing Arts Senator
Anthony Allocca, a first-year student who currently serves as SGA’s LGBTQIA+ commissioner, and Koby Polaski, a first-year student who briefly served on the Financial Advisory Board, are two of the three candidates for performing arts senator. Both praised, in separate interviews, SGA’s transition to a legislative model.
“I think this is a great move,” Polaski said in a Zoom interview. “Getting more people involved in SGA, getting more voices heard in multiple positions is always a win in my mind.”
Allocca told The Beacon he believes the new constitution will allow SGA to function more efficiently.
“As an organization, SGA is taking the right steps [by] amending our constitution and sharing that with the public so that this way we can start off with a model that works,” Allocca said in a Zoom call.
Alloca said he’s best prepared to represent the performing arts department because of his ability to connect to all the different majors within the department.
“I’m not in the strictly performative aspect of the Performing Arts Department,” he said. “I’m just theater education so I’m kind of on the outskirts of performing but also trying to integrate that into my curriculum so I understand those issues. “I understand what it’s been like to be put on the back burner as a PA student … so that kind of gives me another feeling that most of the performing arts community has”
Polaski said accessibility is a major concern for him in the department, citing his experience with ADHD which made him realize the need for more non-normative art.
“I want to bring forth that accessibility not only to the people who may suffer or may have to live with anything that is mentally debilitating or physically debilitating in the performing arts community but also bring about works that incorporate those types of people into roles that can bring a message,” he told The Beacon.
Sophomore Chandler David, the third candidate for the position, declined an interview with The Beacon. David, in a takeover on SGA’s Instagram, said that a major priority for him would be to work with the department to implement a workshop on consent and intimacy for students within performing arts.
“Intimacy and consent work is so important across all mediums of performance and art,” he said during the Instagram takeover. “I think it would be very beneficial to everyone involved.”
Visual Media Arts Senator
Thomas Coughlin, who currently serves as SGA’s visual media arts senator, said his main priority if re-elected would be to work with the department to overhaul the course catalog.
“In VMA, it’s just focusing on updating with what students want, offering courses students actually want to take and they’re not just getting stuck in,” he said in a Zoom interview. “The eternal struggle is always production courses. How can we make production courses more interesting? How can we tailor them to what students want?”
Coughlin cited his experience in SGA and the relationship he’s built with VMA Department Chair Brooke Knight as reasons why he’d be the best person to represent VMA students.
“I’m very open and honest and I’m not afraid to have tough conversations with administration and bring up tough points [that] maybe they didn’t know about,” he said. “And also, I think it takes some getting used to the program … I’m not just representing visual media arts I’m representing media studies and media arts production … and it takes a minute to get used to the major and to get your name around and I have experience with multiple different facets of students under the major.”
Andrew Reed, also running for VMA Senator, did not respond to requests for an interview.
Communication Sciences and Disorders Senator
Jake Apitz is running unopposed for a second term as SGA’s communication sciences and disorders senator. Apitz was appointed to the position in February after Melissa Bordelon, who held the position prior, was appointed to executive vice president.
Apitz told The Beacon in a Zoom interview that the biggest issues facing CSD students are stigmatization and a lack of awareness regarding the major.
“There aren’t really any science majors on campus besides us so we’re kind of seen as ‘that one science major,’” he said. “Some people don’t know that we exist at all so I think that’s the biggest issue plaguing the major at this point and something I’m trying to work towards fixing.”
CSD is one of the smaller majors on campus, Apitz said, and he believes that will allow change to happen more rapidly.
“There have been individuals that wanted more clinical hours and we created a clinical buddies program in order for these students to be able to shadow graduate students,” he said. “It’s certain things like that where it’s a small change but it’s a necessary change and it’s ones that the students have wanted to see and it’s possible for that to happen because our major is so small.”
Writing, Literature and Publishing Senator
Sophomore Thomas Garback, who is running unopposed, told The Beacon that the defining issue of his campaign is cultural competency training.
“The centerpiece of my campaign … [is] the issue of cultural competency training,” he said in a Zoom interview. “This is a practice that has been begun in the department and there have been allegedly positive results from it but people still feel that it needs to be furthered.”
Garback praised SGA for taking steps to amplify student voices within the organization this semester.
“The thing that inspires me the most is discourse concerning representation for the student body through administrative acts in the departments,” he said. “And giving students the platform to speak about what they have experienced as specific students of the department.”
Comedic Arts Senator
Junior Evan Phillips is running unopposed for comedic arts senator after junior Hannah Mittermeier decided not to run for reelection to attend Emerson’s Los Angeles program in the fall. Phillips said he had spoken to Mittermeier about continuing some of the work she had begun this semester.
“I’ve talked to Hannah a little bit and I do want to talk to her more,” he said in a Zoom interview. “I think we’re two people who are very passionate about the program.”
The comedic arts program fits into several departments at the college, which Phillips said he sees as a double-edged sword.
“I’ve been in classes that count as a comedic arts requirement but have non-comedic arts people in them and I’m so grateful that I met those people because they’re incredible people,” he said. “Where that starts to bite back is in things like registering for classes and in the sense that the program doesn’t have a solid identity. It’s still building it.”
Naomi Jones and Philip Leary are both incumbents running unopposed for their positions in class council. Jones is running for Class of 2021 president while Leary is running for Class of 2022 vice president.
Jones said her ability to form relationships with classmates makes her the best candidate for the role.
“I don’t want to claim that I’m the perfect person, I just feel that I’ve worked really hard since freshman year building connections and making sure that everybody is heard and I think I can definitely bring that to the table,” she said in a Zoom interview. “It’s a full council for that reason so that everybody is there to bounce ideas off of each other and really be a team.”
Leary said that providing resources for students to de-stress has been a major part of his platform.
“One particular issue that I’ve seen [is stress]” he said in a Zoom interview. “I’ve heard some people who are interested in a game room… a place where students can go and hang out and de-stress is something that Emerson sorely needs and I think they’ve tried to find that in the Lion’s Den which has definitely been a little bit helpful.”
Madison Goldberg, who is running for Class of 2022 Secretary, declined an interview.
Four candidates running for class of 2022 president, executive vice president, communication studies senator, and class of 2021 vice president, respectively, did not respond to interview requests from The Beacon.
Correction 4/30: A previous version of this article incorrectly quotes Evan Phillips. This has been corrected. We regret this mistake.