Searching for Senators: CMU elections delayed
Last Friday, the student government Elections Board postponed elections from today until Tuesday, April 24. By the original deadline, the Elections Board, a committee of representatives from the Student Senate and the Graduate Student Assembly, had received only 10 petitions for the 30 vacant spots in the Student Senate.
The deadline for petitions has been extended to Wednesday, April 11, at 5 p.m. Platforms are due Tuesday, April 17, by 11:59 p.m.
According to the Senate bylaws, each college is required to have a certain number of student representatives. Many of the empty seats this year belong to historically underrepresented colleges, such as CFA.
With the approaching deadlines, however, the forerunners in the presidential and vice presidential race have already made themselves known.
“We hope this year left the student body with the impression that student government can and should be a positive agent of change on behalf of students,” said Karl Sjogren, a public policy senior and the current student body president. Andrea Hamilton, a senior public policy and art major, is currently vice president.
Three pairs of students have come to the forefront in hopes of winning the title of president and vice president for the 2007–2008 academic year.
Colin Sternhell, a junior economics major, is running for president. His running mate, Lauren Hudock, is a junior public policy and philosophy major.
Alan Eaton, a junior public policy major, is running for president. His running mate, Abiola Fasehun, is a fourth-year in the five-year scholar program as an ethics, history, and public policy major.
Sean Weinstock, a junior business major and political science minor, is running for president. His running mate, Adi Jain, is a junior electrical and computer engineering major and economics minor.
Sternhell serves on the Student Senate Finance Committee. A brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon, he has been on the chapter’s Standards Board and served as member development coordinator. Within the Greek community, he was appointed IFC recruitment chair and Greek Sing cochair. He received the award for Outstanding Young Greek by Greek Council.
Hudock is the Student Senate Communications Committee Chair. In addition, she is a member of the Social and Decision Sciences Student Advisory Council, musical director for Soundbytes, a choreographer for Dancer’s Symposium, and Carnegie Mellon’s ACLU coordinator.
Sternhell and Hudock stated that, if elected, they aim to improve student life and that they have have several starting ideas with which to do so. However, they stated that they do not want to place a number on the possibilities for campus, and instead plan on developing and modifying their platform as each challenge comes along.
Last year, Weinstock served as communications chair for Student Senate. A brother of Pi Kappa Alpha, he has served as the chapter’s treasurer and a member of the executive board of Greek Council. Jain is the president of Mayur, the largest South Asian organization on campus. Mayur sponsors cultural and social activities reflecting its heritage and ethos.
“I knew that as student body vice president, I could act as a voice to encourage collaboration between cultural groups,” Jain said, “and it was this that made me especially want to play such a large role in the student government.”
The collaboration of cultural student groups is one of the key components of Weinstock and Jain’s platform, which is based on five main issues that they termed the “CMU 5.”
The first of these tenets, Power to the People, aims to improve the library by installing Microsoft Office on the computers in the first-floor cluster, making available more power outlets for laptops, and expanding the music archives. The second principle, Cultural FX, calls for the creation of an unbiased advisory board to encourage the of student cultural groups. The pair’s third idea is to implement a new speaker series.
“If we could just reallocate some of the funds from the often ‘niche’ speakers we seem to feature and put them into more universal speakers, like Steve Jobs for example, we could get the attention of students from different disciplines,” Weinstock said.
The pair’s fourth goal is to increase use of the Tartan-Wiki, a database for all student organizations started by the current president and vice president to promote institutional memory.
The final component of Weinstock and Jain’s platform is the Greek Initiative, in which the two plan to dispel myths about Greek life and integrate the 1000 students who participate in Greek life into the larger campus community.
In addition, Weinstock and Jain have a sixth goal that they believe will be more difficult to implement.
Inspired by first-year academic policies at competing institutions such as MIT, Johns Hopkins University, and Brown University, Weinstock and Jain would like to bring up the idea of pass/fail grading options for first-year students. The main objective of this program would be to allow first-year students some time to adjust to a college setting and not immediately delve into the high-stress world of Carnegie Mellon.
However, Weinstock and Jain said that if elected, their impact would not be limited to these issues.
“We want to emphasize that there clearly are more than five issues,” Weinstock said. “However, we believe these to provide an excellent starting point and that other issues, such as the PAT changes, we will address as they come to us.”
The pair’s competitors, Eaton and Fasehun, have just as extensive a platform. Issues they propose to tackle include restructuring environmental policy, reforming campus transportation, and increasing student interaction during events like Homecoming.
Like their fellow candidates, both Eaton and Fasehun have had their fair share of leadership experience on campus.
Eaton served as finance chair of Student Senate his sophomore year. He is currently a member of the Joint Funding Commitee and a brother of Phi Kappa Theta.
Fasehun is the founder of women’s leadership groups Strong Women, Strong Girls, and 85 Broads. She is also the president of the Pre-Law Society, a writer for The Triple Helix, an eco-rep, a sexual assault advisor, and a member of both the President’s Student Advisory Council and the Modern Languages Student Advisory Commitee.
“As a fifth-year scholar, I have already seen almost four years of the CMU community, and I feel like this role would just be a culmination of my whole CMU experience,” Fasehun said.
Eaton and Fasehun hope to build on current sustainability policies and increase student involvement in this university mission.
“We have this great program that gets students papers for free, for example,” Eaton said. “But then there are barely any recycling bins on campus to dispose of the papers when finished.”
They also plan to restructure the current Safewalk and Carnegie Mellon shuttle systems.
In addition, the pair plans to increase collaboration between Carnegie Mellon faculty, administrators, and students by enforcing the campus moratorium.
“We have always had a moratorium from 4:30 to 6:30 each weekday in which students are supposed to be free of classes and all academic commitments,” Eaton said. “Yet, this is rarely enforced and even known about by many students.”
They also plan to increase school spirit by increasing funding for club sports, promoting the use of the Tartan-Wiki, and publicizing the arts and culture opportunities on and off campus.
“We have so many resources here on campus,” Fasehun said. “It is key that the students know so they can take advantage of them.”
All six candidates praised the campus bike initiative as one that brought the campus community together.
“We would love to have every day show our year-round community with Frisbees, painting, and tons of people outside, not just special days like that,” Eaton said.
Eaton and Fasehun hope to improve campus-wide events. They plan to add a dance and crowning of Homecoming king and queen in an effort to attract more students to the event. They hope to use this event and to foster diversity and leadership among students.
They hope to institute a blog where students will have the opportunity to post their thoughts, ideas, and feedback.
If elected, they also aim to improve Student Senate itself.
“It is almost a tragedy that Student Senate gives out over $80,000 each year, yet could only garner 10 petitions out of 30 needed,” Eaton said.
Eaton and Fasehun have suggested filling the representative vacancies with members of different colleges. However, this change would complicate things; A CIT student acting as a representative for CFA, for example, must have the support of CFA students in order to be elected to represent that group’s interests in the campus community.
While the future of the Student Senate is not yet clear, Sjogren is confident that his successors, whoever they are, will have a positive impact.
“Regardless of who’s elected, I think, and I really hope, that student government will continue on its course to being a more visible section of the campus community,” he said.