Junior Bamise Afolabi did not start at Knox expecting to get involved in student government. But next year he will be Student Senate President.
Student Senate announced the results of the exec board elections — president, vice president, secretary and treasurer — on Sunday, Feb. 16.
Afolabi won 72.5% of the vote. Carly Rieger, sophomore, received 24.9% of the vote and write-in votes made up the remaining 2.6%.
Afolabi is currently the Diversity Chair for Student Senate. He will be joined on the exec board by incoming VP Yohan Chauhan, who is currently the first-year representative to exec, and incumbents Secretary Kathryn Allee and Treasurer Andrew Liput, who will be returning to their roles.
Afolabi was surprised to win, he said, although not because he had not put in effort towards winning like putting up posters and encouraging people to vote.
“I’m still trying to process through it, actually,” he said. “It was good, and at the same time I was shocked.”
He was impressed with the level of support he received from students and he is glad that he has the confidence of the student body.
Chauhan was similarly surprised by his election, especially since he is a freshman who was running against a sophomore. The VP race was closer than the president race, with Chauhan’s 54.1% over sophomore Patrick Mulchrone’s 43.5% being 52 votes.
He said his experience as the first-year representative on the exec committee helped prepare him to move to the VP role. He and Afolabi have each been thinking about plans for next year, and Chauhan said he thinks they will work well together.
Both told TKS they wanted to focus on Senate’s connections to the wider campus community and make sure people realize that Senate does more than give money to clubs.
As examples of what Senate does beyond this, Afolabi pointed to recent discussions about the upcoming tuition increase Senate had with Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Paul Eisenmenger, President Teresa Amott and a Skype call at a recent meeting with Board of Trustees chair Charles Smith, ‘84.
Afolabi said he also wanted to look at publicity, including social media and the use of Senate’s bulletin board, which he said has been going well this year but there is always more that could be done with it. He also has thought about holding General Assembly in more places around campus.
“This week maybe we do the usual Alumni Hall, then maybe next week we’ll go to the Quads, that way, when people see GA going on in their area they have the push to be a part of it,” he said.
Afolabi is currently an RA and on the Multicultural Student Advisory Committee, experiences he said gave him an understanding for what students on campus need. His goal is to make sure that the experience for students matches what they expect coming into Knox and that each year they are here is better than the last.
For Chauhan, the exec board debates highlighted the gap between Senate and the student body, as few people other than Senate members or TKS reporters attended. He thinks more tabling is one potential solution to make sure Senate can accurately represent campus.
“I’ll assign senators more tabling times and make it more visible around campus,” he said.
Voting turnout is also important for Chauhan, who as VP will oversee elections next year. He said he wants to implement voting locations around campus as a way to encourage people to vote by making it easier.
This election had higher turnout than many recent ones, with 462 students voting, over a third of enrollment. Senate President Cayne Randle, senior, attributed this partly to having contested presidential and vice presidential elections where both candidates actively campaigned.
The election came soon after high salience Senate discussions such as over the removal of the graffiti wall and there were multiple email reminders to vote, Randle said. Each reminder led to an surge of votes after it was sent out.
This is Randle’s fourth year on Senate and she said she was glad to see the uptick in turnout and an overall change in culture in Senate and engagement with campus. For instance, a recent survey about the graffiti wall received over 200 responses.
“I’ll miss it a lot but also I know it’s time to give it to the next generations, pass it on,” Randle said.
The “new generation” is considering Senate organizational change as well. Senate is planning to reduce the number of general assembly members from six to five senators per class next year. Afolabi said he was open to further reductions or organizational changes such as returning to representatives from residential halls rather than class year if needed to make sure Senate could keep positions filled.
Chairperson elections will happen closer to the end of Winter Term, followed by general assembly elections in Spring Term. Transition training for next year’s exec will start in Spring Term.