Six candidates to run for SGA academic senate and class council seats

SGA+at+a+Fall+2019+Joint+Session+meeting.

Media: Madison Murillo

SGA at a Fall 2019 Joint Session meeting.

By Frankie Rowley

The Student Government Association’s fall 2020 elections will feature six candidates running to bolster the ranks of an organization that has struggled to make forward progress under its newly established structure.

The five positions on the ballot are executive vice president, communication studies senator, class of 2024 president, class of 2024 vice president, and Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts senator. Executive Vice President Jehan Ayesha-Wirasto is running unopposed for re-election while current Executive Treasurer Thomas Coughlin is not competing to extend his tenure. Both were appointed to their positions in August. 

This fall was SGA’s first semester under its new legislative model, which aims to give the organization’s members a platform to make concrete change at the college. So far, that change has not come to fruition. Newly established bodies are still unable to meet due to a lack of members, and the group has passed just one piece of legislation (legislation is intended to be a call to action to administrators).

SGA hasn’t conducted their usual election press this semester. Typically, campaign posters flood Emerson’s campus and candidates launch Instagram accounts to garner attention for their campaigns. The organization also didn’t host its planned Instagram takeovers, where candidates typically explain their platforms to students. 

With just five positions set to be filled, the organization will once again stare down a slew of vacancies, especially in its legislative branch. A number of senators who were appointed this fall are not running for official election. Elected senators serve for a full academic year, but appointees must seek election to continue serving. In total, twelve senatorial positions—including Business of Creative Enterprises senator, Honors Program senator, Journalism senator, Marketing Communications senator and Visual Media Arts senator—will be vacant at the beginning of the spring semester, as well as the treasurership.

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The organization faces even more vacancies in its class councils as nine positions are set to be vacant in the spring. 

SGA officials have said they are not concerned about having to fill potential vacancies. 

Polls run from 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18 to 7 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 20.

Ayesha-Wirasto declined a request for an interview, and Coughlin declined to comment on his decision not to run for re-election. 

Academic Senate

The academic senate is composed of representatives from each of the college’s academic departments. Senators meet with department chairs to advocate for students in their respective major programs and convey their needs. The academic senate is also responsible for producing the academic initiative, which highlights issues in each of the academic departments, which SGA aims to address.

Incumbent Individually Designed Interdisciplinary Program Senator Pranit Chand is running unopposed for a second semester representing the new Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts. Chand was first appointed to the role in a student assembly meeting on Sept. 14. 

Chand is running for reelection in hopes of making life for Marlboro students at Emerson better after the merger. The controversial merger between Emerson and Marlboro College was finalized in July, and sent a select number of Marlboro students to Emerson to finish their degrees.

This was those students’ first semester at Emerson, and Chand said they currently feel that their voices aren’t being valued in discussions surrounding dilemmas that have emerged in the merger’s wake. 

At Marlboro, students often had the opportunity to work closely with professors on academic work. Currently, those students feel they aren’t getting the same kind of personalized support, and Chand proposed an official channel for students in the IDIP program to work with professors.

“Students need to get the right kind of courses they’re demanding, the right support from professors, and the right academic sources,” Chand said. “ I would say that we want to make a channel through which the students are able to connect with the faculty members that they want to work with.” 

Chand also floated the idea of a peer mentor program that would connect Marlboro Institute students with alumni of the program.

Chand aspires to create a more inclusive community for Marlboro students at Emerson, one that meets both their social and academic needs. 

“Every Friday we meet up, chat, have dinner together, and it’s been fun,” Chand said. “ Besides that, … we’re doing things like taking people out on field trips going on hikes going to museums, things like that.”

Ryan Jackson, who is running unopposed for a second semester as communication studies senator, did not respond to requests for an interview. 

Class Council 

Class council is designed to advocate for the needs of each individual class. Each class has a council, which consists of a president, a vice president, a treasurer, and two senators. Senators represent their class in either the Financial Equity Committee or Student Experience Senate. 

The contest for president of the class of 2024 is the only contested race set for the spring elections. Aryan Chaudhari and Hannah Flayhan are both running for the position. 

Chaudhari hopes to create a council suggestion box where students can voice their concerns. 

“I plan on listening to the students, because whatever their concerns are I wish to fulfill and if we’re not doing things right… I want to hear what they think of it and what we should do to fix the problems that are currently facing our class,” he said in a Zoom interview. 

Chaudhari said one of his major goals is combatting feelings of isolation amongst first-year students by implementing a “buddy system.” 

“A system in which people [who feel] unsafe heading to wherever they want to can put in a request or google form for a buddy to assist them in any way,” he said. …”They can have that companion and further progress their friendship maybe later on during the semester or throughout the four years we’re here.” 

Currently, the Emerson College Police Department offers a similar program where students can use the LiveSafe App to request an ECPD officer to escort them to and from their destination. 

Flayhan did not respond to requests for an interview. 

Joseph Naileth is running unopposed for Class of 2024 vice president. He said the most pressing issue for his class and the college as a whole is social responsibility, specifically when it comes to the college’s relationship with the homeless community of Boston. 

“I think that the biggest issue facing the general community in which we live, right now is that there is an ongoing homelessness epidemic in Boston,” Naileth said. “I feel like college students and college administrations and anybody who was a stakeholder in college life, should bear some of that responsibility.” 

Naileth hopes to create a mutual aid program, where students can work on different initiatives to aid the homeless. 

“There are some classic things that we can always be looking for that I know a number of organizations are already doing their own versions of,” Naileth said. “ There’s a lot of room for clothing drives. There’s room for canned food drives that people are grabbing something extra from the Max, if they have extra board bucks, to just be able to pick up some things that wouldn’t even put a dent in their own wallet, that could make a huge difference in somebody’s day.”

Charlie McKenna contributed reporting.

Correction 11/21/20: IDIP Senator Pranit Chand’s name was spelled incorrectly. We regret this error.