After being delayed last spring due to the coronavirus, the first round of elections to elect new members of the 2020-2021 Brandeis Student Union were elected, with all but one of the elections with only one candidate on the ballot.
Kendall Chapman ’22 and Krupa Sourirajan ’23 ran as a joint ticket for president and vice president and were uncontested in the election, receiving 78.81 percent of the vote. Alex Hanseop Park ’22 was elected as secretary with 75.37 percent of the vote, Ashley Miller ‘22 was elected as treasurer with 75.83 percent of the vote, Jiale Hao ’22 was elected as representative to the Community Engagement and Enhancement Fund (CEEF) with 75.35 percent of the vote and Sonali Anderson ’22 was elected as junior representative to the Board of Trustees with 48.98 percent of the vote.
Brandeis had an undergraduate population of 3,688 as of fall 2019, according to the university’s website. However, no more than 495 votes were cast in any of these elections.
The election for junior representative to the board of trustees was the only election with multiple candidates on the ballot, with Anderson beating Nancy Zhai ’22 by 30 votes. In races without opponents, the remaining votes were split between write-in candidates, abstensions and votes of no confidence.
The candidates made their case to the student body in a virtual debate conducted Thursday, Sept. 3 and held over Zoom. Each candidate was given the chance to deliver an opening statement before being questioned by reporters from The Brandeis Hoot and the Justice.
Chapman said she wanted to “demystify” the internal workings of the Student Union and improve its communications and civility. She said that she would improve communications by getting the Student Union Instagram account working, beautify the website and increase internal Union communication. She said that she wanted to make sure that “the [Executive Board] E-Board is representative of the campus” and added that the Black Action Plan “outlines some incredible points” and said that she wants to be “opening doors and leading the movement” but acknowledged that racial justice is a monumental issue and that no one person can fix it on their own.
According to Chapman, the presidency is a “team player position” and that she would be working with other members of the Union and meeting with members of the administration to ensure that off campus students are taken care of. Chapman also emphasized her past experience in the Student Union as vice president as a key asset for her term as president.
Sourirajan talked about wanting to increase transparency and communication from the Union and ensure a strong partnership between the Senate and the E-Board. She said that she has friends in the Senate and that she expects that that will help her maintain a productive relationship. She also commented on wanting to make sure senators put their phones aside during the meeting, being a mediator within the union and having monthly meetings with the student press.
Park commented that he wanted to “follow in Taylor [Fu]’s footsteps” and be the main source of communication between the Union and the student body. He said that as an international student raised in the United States, he has a unique connection to students learning from abroad on account of the pandemic and that he would make sure to keep them informed. He said that his biggest challenge would be making sure that the weekly updates are read more often, as he does not believe many students read them now.
Miller argued that the treasurer is a unique position within the Student Union due to the technical expertise required and said that having worked as deputy treasurer she was uniquely qualified to fill the position. She said that she would be able to make sure that all of the processes the treasurer is required to oversee run smoothly. She also talked about how easy it is for someone newly involved to get lost in the details and said that she would make sure junior members are well informed and well trained.
Anderson ran on a platform of structural change and “doing,” and Zhai emphasized the importance of her experience in and knowledge of the Student Union. Anderson talked about wanting to serve the Brandeis community and represent marginalized students, talking about the significance of the Black Action Plan as something that would change and improve all aspects of campus life. Zhai talked about having the experience required to govern from day one, wanting to represent the whole campus and “not just the loudest voices” and holding the university accountable to meeting or exceeding its goal of reducing its carbon footprint. Both candidates were asked whether they planned to discuss divestment from fossil fuels with the board of trustees, but neither definitively said that they would.
Hao said that he should be reelected so that he could continue projects that were cut short by the coronavirus in the spring, such as the installation of bike racks across campus and the renovation of East Quad. He said that he was experienced with the logistics and processes involved in CEEF from his previous term and that he would prioritize projects that benefit the widest number of people, especially ones related to health and safety.