Campus / Featured / News / January 16, 2019

Sam Cohen elected Student Senate President


(Graphic by Michelle Dudley, Data provided by Student Senate)


The special elections for Senate have ended, with senior Sam Cohen winning the presidency and junior Eliza Dehlin winning the secretary position.

This unusual mid-year election was a result of former president and senior Leonard Monterey’s resignation in December. Following his resignation, sophomore Tehreem Anwar also resigned from the position of secretary, as well as two junior senators: Musaddiq Jahed and Momin Zahid.


Senior Sam Cohen was elected Senate President. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)


Cohen received 52.4 percent of the vote, and Vice President and senior Irene Stephenson received 44.4 percent of the vote. The remaining 3.2 percent were comprised of write-ins.

Now that he has been elected president, Cohen says he feels much less stressed and more motivated. He is currently reaching out to other members of Senate to see what they want changed.

Preferably, he says, he would like to return to his work that he started as vice president last year regarding sexual assault on campus, and potentially get Senate involved in Take Back the Night.

He would also like to work with the dining services chairperson on the food pantry and see if it can be better sustained.

“There are a lot of small and medium things we have to do this term and we can build from there,” he told TKS in an email.

By moving up to president, Cohen leaves an empty seat for the treasurer. According to Senate bylaws, another election will have to be held to find a new treasurer. However, Cohen has said that he is looking into loopholes to allow appointments for this position, as he is worried about “election fatigue” leading into the upcoming elections for the 2019-20 executive board elections.

This is similar to the decision made earlier on Wednesday morning, which allowed the junior senator position left open by Dehlin to go to the third runner-up in the junior senator race. The position was technically not open until after the election was called.

“Given that most of the campus is tired and fed up with both Senate, and more importantly Senate emails, there was a decision made both by the election committee and the Senate exec that the seat would be made available to the runner up if Eliza won the position of secretary,” junior Flora Florova, a member of the elections committee, told TKS in an email.

Monterey resigned from his position after much deliberation.

“Frankly, I want to be true to myself and don’t want to be a part of an organization that I don’t think fits my core values,” Monterey told TKS in an interview. “And I decided it would be best for both my mental health and my wellbeing, as well of the organization’s success for us to separate and for me to move on.”

One of the main concerns he had with Senate was its lack of training during the transition period at the end of last school year and the beginning of this school year.

“As you see on the exec committee, you have a lot of veterans who have been there a long time and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I feel that we haven’t done enough to develop our newer members, whether it be executive or non-executive,” Monterey said.

The transition between the two years was rough, Cohen said, which is another thing he wants to work on as president.

In his resignation email sent on Dec. 20, Monterey appointed Vice President Stephenson to the role of president. However, according to the Senate bylaws, the president cannot fill a position that will be vacant for over one term by personal appointment. Section 1, Article F of the Student Senate bylaws, states “if any position of the Senate will be vacant for over one term, the Executive Board will organize a special election to fill the position within two weeks of being notified of the opening.”

“Reading the bylaws is essential to being an executive board member as well as being a senator,” junior and Chairperson of Health and Wellness Carolyn Ginder said in an email. “This information was common knowledge which should have been referred to prior to the email being sent to appointing someone as president since the former President did not have the ability to do that.”

After bylaws were checked, Stephenson was then appointed as the interim president while special elections were planned. Originally, Stephenson was running the elections as vice president always runs Senate exec elections, but after deciding to run for president, a special elections committee was formed, comprised of Florova, senior Rachel Watson and sophomores Tina Jeon and Robert Draper.


Senior Irene Stephenson and junior Amn Farooq listen during the first Senate meeting of the term. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

“I was excited to be president and take on the role as this person who would be able to bring people together,” Stephenson said on her reaction to being appointed wrongfully by Monterey.

Stephenson focused her ballot statement on her ability to keep good relations with members of Senate even in tense situations. The previous Fall Term was filled with communication issues and internal conflict, according to Stephenson, Monterey and Cohen.

“It’s hard to work under the conditions where your exec committee is not united and that there are a lot of motions at play. It really makes your work difficult, and when I know there are issues coming up — they’ll come up in Senate,” Monterey said.

This was another reason Monterey cited as contributing to his resignation, especially as tensions heated up before the proposal of a non-discrimination policy by students in Common Ground at the end of the term.

“I know I clashed because I was very passionate about getting the non-discrimination discussion started last term, because I’ve seen how long big discussions like this take and I knew that if we started it this term, we would not be at the point [we are at now],” Cohen said. “So I know I can be passionate when there’s something that I care about that needs to get done.”

Cohen hopes to bridge communication gaps in the future. Earlier in the term, all executive members met with Ehrlich to discuss their prior issues and see how they can move forward with them. He said that the first general assembly and executive committees both went well.

“Inherently, after elections are all done, as someone who is no longer a part of the organization,” Monterey said, “I can still say that all I can do is hope that things are figured out.”

Erika Riley, Editor-in-Chief
Erika Riley is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. During her sophomore year, she worked as a news editor, and during her freshman year, she worked as a layout editor. She is the winner of the 2017 Ida M. Tarbell Prize for Investigative Reporting and the recipient of First Place Front Page Layout from the Illinois Press Association in 2016. Twitter: @ej_riley

Tags:  elections Student Student Senate

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