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Student Union fall elections garner impressive voter turnout

UPDATED 9/14 3:30 PM
The Student Union held their fall elections yesterday, giving students 24 hours—from 12 a.m. on Wednesday to 12 a.m. on Thursday—to vote. The ballots were sent out by email for students to vote electronically, but students could also vote (earning a treat as an incentive) at new voting booths in the SCC and Upper Usdan. The voting booths were one of two initiatives introduced by the Union to increase voter turnout, the other being a Meet the Candidates event on the evening of Sept. 12.

Due to a glitch in the voting system, former Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP) students were able to vote for the MKTYP senate position, when only first year MKTYP students should be able to vote for that position. Therefore, those students will be given the full 24 hours to vote and the results of that election will be released at noon on Friday.  

David Hui ’22 was elected to the Senate as the senator for North Quad, while Kendal Chapman ’22 will be the senator for Massell Quad. Joshua Hoffman ’21 will be the senator to Rosenthal Quad and Skyline Residence Hall. Leigh Salomon ’19 won the election for senator to Ziv and Ridgewood Quad. Jake Rong ’21 will represent Village as their senator in the Student Union. Sam Zuckerman  ’20 was elected to be the senator to the Charles River Apartments and Hangyu Deng ’21 will be the off-campus senator.

Aseem Kumar ’20 and Kate Kesselman ’19 won their re-election campaigns for the two-semester position on the Allocations Board (A-Board). Kumar is the current chair of A-Board.

Kumar focused his campaign on increasing the efficiency and transparency of A-Board and the funds, said Kumar in an interview to The Brandeis Hoot. He is also working to increase the accountability of all the members on A-Board. “You can really make a difference even if you play by the book,” explained Kumar. “All the changes I’m trying to make are very much within the gray lines of the constitution and the administration.”

As the chair of A-Board, Kumar is also hoping to do more collaborations with Student Sexualtiy Information Services (SSIS) and the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC), as well as pulling other outside counseling services to Brandeis to provide more resources. He is also working to secure these clubs to guarantee them more funding.

Kesselman’s recent re-election to A-Board will be her fourth and final year on A-Board. Having been a part of A-Board since her first year at Brandeis, Kesselman worked hard to communicate with newcomers, made sure they knew the ropes and helped them feel welcome.

A major initiative that A-Board accomplished was increasing relations with the Intercultural Center (ICC) and getting feedback from clubs that did not feel they got equal representation during hsalathon.

During her final year on A-Board, Kesselman is working to continue the outreach and communication within not only A-Board, but also the student body in general. Something members of A-Board are trying to accomplish this year is to attend club meetings and talk to the leaders of clubs to get their opinion on A-Board allocations as well as any funding questions to get a better sense of the student body.

“Thank you for supporting me for the last three years. I feel like I’ve given a lot to this campus and everything I’ve given, I’ve gotten back via support in trying to reach my goals,” said Kesselman in an interview to The Hoot.

Roland Blanding ’21 won, by one vote, the position of three-semester representative for A-Board. His platform includes making cultural events more inclusive to build a sense of community on campus and giving more time and funding for clubs to get off the ground. Blanding stated that he wanted to, “[have] open and honest discourse, welcome everyone to the table and get things done.”

Marshall Smith ’21 was elected Racial Minority Representative to A-Board. Smith was inspired to run by comments made by rowing teammates. “After hearing their concerns, and at times, frustrations, I wanted to learn more about the allocation process … I want to ensure the chartered and secured clubs understand the established policies and provide thoughtful consideration when making requests so they fully understand funding decisions,” Smith said to The Hoot.

Smith, a major in Business and Film, Television, and Interactive Media with a minor in Politics, said he was running because he wanted to “ensure that chartered and secured clubs are funded equitably and to help further the interests of the Brandeis student body.”

Smith closed by saying, “I’d ask that individuals hold us accountable to the ideals of the Student Union and join us in the commitment to our beloved university.”

The role of representative to the undergraduate curriculum committee will be filled by Brandon Stanaway ’19. “As the UCC rep, I encourage students to share their opinions on the current curriculum and what changes they would like to see,” Stanaway said. “Brandeis has high standards for academic achievement; student input can start conversations that may help the University adapt the curriculum to evolving trends in the professional world, while expanding its commitment to social justice and molding academically well-rounded students.”

Tal Richtman ’20 was voted the Representative to the Community Emergency and Enhancement Fund (CEEF) Board, a source for special funding for student activities and student-led initiatives. “I believe in the Union and our ability to make a change in Brandeis students’ lives,” Richtman said. “While not anymore on the senate, I’m always here for you for any issue or concern, for any initiatives or suggestions. Once a senator, always your senator.”

CoCo Zhang ’22 was elected as senator for racial minority students. In an interview to The Hoot, Zhang cited her experience in her high school’s student council and possible plans to reduce printing costs. When asked about her plans for the Union, she responded, “I want to be directly involved with the clubs … and even though I’m not able to participate in all of them I do want to talk to the different clubs and organizations. I’m planning to regularly to visit them and talk to them to exchange opinions.”

Samantha Barrett ’20 won the race for representative to the alumni board. Barrett has had two positions in the Union before, as class of 2020 senator and East Quad senator, and worked on the menstrual products initiative and the installation of the crosswalk signs in front of the Rabb steps to improve access for members of the Brandeis community with disabilities.

In an interview with The Hoot, Barrett stated that she wanted the Brandeis community to know that “I am their voice, that they can speak through me. I want the Brandeis community’s concerns and ideas to be relayed across the board, whether it’s to the alumni or to the administration.”

Topaz Fernandez Fragoso ’22 and Alexander Chang ’22 won in the race for senators to the class of 2022. In an interview to The Hoot, Fragoso highlighted her experience as vice president of her high school student government, which she called “really rewarding.” I want to do everything I can to make sure that our class of 2022 has everything it needs,” she said.

Chang ran on a platform of elevating the first-year class and installing air conditioning in first-year lounges. He was part of a group called “The Justice Coalition,” a group of first-years running for union seats on a similar platform.

I mean if you go to any college campus in America there’s this sort of informal hierarchy … that the upperclassmen … are somehow innately superior to the underclassmen,” Chang said in an interview to The Hoot. “What I’m trying to do here is to kind of change the the perceived status quo,” Chang continued. “Why is it that [the] freshman dorms on campus … [have] living conditions far inferior to any of the other ones of the upperclassmen housing. That’s probably the main concern to address that we will be focusing on.”

President of the Student Union Hannah Brown ’19 commented on the elections. “I think this year’s election saw great—possibly even record-breaking—turnout and enthusiasm, especially from the first year class,” Brown said in a statement to The Hoot. “We on the Student Union certainly tried to make this election cycle more accessible and fun by hosting a meet the candidates event and tabling polling stations across campus.”

She continued, “We also made an effort to emphasize the accessibility and ease of participating on Senate committees. I think the changes to positions such made by the Constitutional Review Task Force, such as the combination of some quad seats and the addition of CEEF Board Representatives, will help make the Union more effective and productive. The candidates are all promising with strong ideals, and I’m sure we’ll have representation this year.”

According to the report released by the Union to The Hoot, 939 people entered the election poll, though actual turnout varied per individual race.

CORRECTION: There were actually two seats to the CEEF board that were up for election. Michael Bender ’22 won the other seat.

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