The candidates for Student Senate Executive Committee emphasized expanding on the work done this year to increase the Senate’s organization and approachability in their debates before the election.
The debates were held in the Lincoln Room on Monday, Feb. 19 with voting opening the next day.
Sophomore Cayne Randle, the current treasurer, and junior Leonard Monterey, the current chair of dining services, are both running for president of Student Senate.
During the debate, Randle cited her experience as treasurer and the exposure that she has had with various groups on campus as well as the experience with difficult discussions about budgeting and money. Monterey emphasized the importance of improving the atmosphere between students and Senate.
Both saw themselves as planning to build on the progress made by current president senior Sofia Tagkaloglou in that respect.
When discussing how she would navigate issues related to diversity on campus, Randle brought up the controversy over the planned staging of “The Good Person of Szechwan” and said she would address it through making sure students had someone on Senate they felt they could come to.
Monterey brought up the difficulty of remaining unbiased in emotionally charged issues and the role he wanted his Executive board to have in helping him make the right move.
The Vice President field has five candidates: juniors Irene Stephenson, Nick Ryan and Jacob Brown, sophomore Flora Florova, and freshman Aqib Ali Hussnain. Brown and Florova did not attend the debates. Brown sent in a statement highlighting his experience with leadership in various clubs on campus.
The prepared questions for the vice presidential race focused largely on the students’ experience and how they would balance supporting their president and being a leader in their own right.
The candidates all referred to leadership experience they would bring to the position, some in Senate and some in other clubs. Hussnain and Stephenson expressed support of the mentorship program current Vice President junior Sam Cohen has begun for freshmen senators.
The position of Senate on campus was also brought up, with all the candidates acknowledging that work had to be done to improve the relationship of Senate to the students. This connected to the subject of senator retention, with six senators having been lost this term.
Hussnain talked about the role being more work than many students expected and that it should be treated with more esteem. Stephenson and Ryan said they thought that increased efficiency and completion of projects could improve retention.
The debate then moved on to secretary, for which there are three candidates: sophomore Eden Sarkisian, sophomore Eliza Dehlin and freshman Tehreem Anwar. Anwar was the only candidate to attend the debate. Dehlin sent in a statement which cited her experience on Finance committee and past work with social media as important qualifications she has for the position. Sarkisian did not send in a statement.
While she is not currently on Senate, Anwar said she would use Spring Term, if elected, to familiarize herself with how the organization worked. She also detailed three projects she hopes to work on: Knox’s WiFi, improving the residential living experience and making Student Senate more transparent. She mentioned increased events and social media presence as means to achieving the latter goal.
Cohen is the only candidate for treasurer. He served as treasurer last year and said he liked the structure of the role and having his own committee to work on things with. In terms of changes, he said he wanted to re-open the Special Meeting of the Use of Restricted Funds (SMURF) and try to be more proactive about seeing if groups needed money, rather than waiting for them to ask.
The event drew low attendance from the student body beyond the candidates. Tagkaloglou cited poor planning on Senate’s part in that the information about the debates was sent out late, with the location being sent out just a few hours before the event.
Senior Monica Weller was one of the attendees not associated with Senate. She also noted the low attendance but finds the debates an important part of the process.
“I think it’s always interesting to see elections and to see who shows up and how people are elected and how the candidates speak because I think it’s really telling sometimes,” Weller said.
Tagkaloglou also noted that the debates this year felt different than ones she had experienced in the past. Rather than sharing ideas and trying to show off, she said she felt the candidates focused more on the ideas behind Senate.
“Now I really do feel like people are using it as a way to critically engage with what their ideas are, what other people’s ideas are and how we can really move forward,” Tagkaloglou said.
Several times during the debates candidates mentioned things they would have done differently than the current Exec committee. Tagkaloglou said she did not feel offended by this but that she was glad they felt they could be open about those ideas in front of her.
“Because we spent so much time looking at our own processes internally I feel like we didn’t do as good of a job putting ourselves on the complex of the campus,” Tagkaloglou said. “So my biggest goal . . . will be finishing a lot of the loose ends that I’m trying to tie up . . . I really see that after this year and after we introspectively looked at it we can really put a bigger emphasis on reaching out to others.”
Eden Sarkisian is the discourse editor for TKS.