Student government elections heat up on campus
While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton duke it out in national politics, candidates for Carnegie Mellon student government are having their own debates in preparation for the elections on April 6–8.
This year, two pairs of candidates have decided to run for student body president and vice president (SBP and SBVP), and two candidates are also in the running for student body vice president of finance (SBVPF). With posters, websites, and Facebook groups, the race for the executive branch is on.
The candidates are participating in a debate today at 4:30 p.m. in McConomy, where they are expected to cover a variety of issues affecting Carnegie Mellon students.
However, the executive branch is not the only competitive election arena this semester.
Applications for Student Senate representatives from each of the six colleges are all high, with the biggest surprise being the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Last year, the college could barely fill its 10 elected spots. However, this year, 24 candidates have submitted petitions to run.
With only one week remaining, the race for student government has reached its final straightaway.
Student government elections will open on Sunday, April 6, at 6 p.m. and close on Tuesday, April 8, at 6 p.m. Students can vote online and paper balloting will be available in the University Center, Wean Commons tabling area outside of the Connan Room on April 7–8.
Dorian Adeyemi and Alex Short for SBP and SBVP
Dorian Adeyemi, a junior public policy and management and international relations double major, and Alex Short, a junior chemical engineering and biomedical engineering double major, are running for SBP and SBVP to transform the body into a voice of the students, something they currently see missing.
“We want to bring government back to the student body,” Adeyemi said.
Adeyemi and Short both come from backgrounds of campus leadership positions.
Adeyemi has been involved with Senate since his sophomore year. He is also a tour guide and a leader in his fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha, most recently serving as overall Greek Sing co-chair.
Short is a brother in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, where he has served in a number of leadership roles including his current role of president, and has been involved in Carnegie United Towards Increased Effort in Service (CUTIEs), the Cycling Club, and is currently performing regenerative medicine research.
Adeyemi and Short noted their sociability as an important factor in their campaign.
“We’re the type of people who like to be in the trenches, talking to people, and seeing what’s going on with them,” Short said. “And getting feedback from students is such a big part of being a leader.”
Adeyemi and Short do not have a set list of initiatives, as they do not want to limit themselves, they said.
“It’s all about change, accountability, and pride,” Adeyemi said of the pair’s ideas.
In enacting change on campus, Adeyemi and Short noted the importance of small, tangible steps.
He mentioned some past events and activities that have been successful in changing campus culture, for a day at least.
“The day that Senate got the bikes last year was a great time on campus,” Adeyemi said. “There were almost 700 people on the Cut and people were happy — it was a beautiful thing.”
Adeyemi and Short noted that similar events can bring the campus together, such as buying Rita’s for a day.
“Who doesn’t love Rita’s?” Adeyemi asked.
Adeyemi and Short hope that these events will bring together groups of student organizations, thus furthering and unifying campus cultures.
In addition to these kinds of events, pushing for student government accountability will aid in effectively changing campus culture, the candidates explained.
To ensure this accountability, they have proposed reviving the Senate website, publishing meeting minutes, holding Executive Committee office hours, and reviving The Gavel, a former student government newsletter, to be passed out person-to-person in front of Doherty Hall.
Adeyemi noted instances this year where he believes student opinions were not accurately reflected by their Senate representatives.
“Two weeks ago, we voted 26:1 in favor of continuing to investigate the +/– grading policy,” Adeyemi said, “I was the one against because after speaking to my college, I knew that the majority of them were against it. The Senate vote was just mind-boggling to me.”
Although Adeyemi and Short hope to change aspects of campus, they want students to have pride in the uniqueness of Carnegie Mellon.
“Involvement in our student organizations, for example, is just one of the things you can only do here. A fraternity or newspaper here is so different than what it would be at other places,” Adeyemi said.
Adeyemi and Short said that they take pride not only in our campus, but also in making change for others.
“Student government shouldn’t be a résumé thing,” Short said. “We are passionate about getting student opinions and take pride in getting problems solved.”
Adeyemi and Short related their campaign to a grassroots effort, but said that was what they wanted — to bring it all back to the students.
More information on theses candidates’ plans for student government can be found at (www.tartanpride.com).
Jared Itkowitz and Pooja Godbole for SBP and SBVP
Jared Itkowitz, a junior business administration and Chinese double major, and Pooja Godbole, a sophomore business administration major, hope to bring the campus together as SBP and SBVP, respectively, through CMUnity, a series of seven main initiatives that are just the beginning of the pair’s platform.
“There is a perception among students that student government can’t make actual change,” Itkowitz said. “But we want to show that it really can make a difference with tangible goals.”
Itkowitz and Godbole make a unique pair, “bringing balance to the table,” according to Godbole, because of their experiences in different campus areas.
Itkowitz has been involved with the undergraduate Student Senate since his first weeks on campus and has served on the Executive Committee the past four semesters, serving as chair this past year.
He is also the Buggy chair for his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, a member of a number of business clubs, and a former resident assistant and teaching assistant.
Godbole has shown her leadership through involvement in cultural organizations and campus groups.
She served as first-year representative and treasurer this year of Mayur-SASA, traveled with SIFE on this year’s Nicaragua service trip, is a sister of Kappa Alpha Theta, and was the leader of this year’s first-ever Bhangra in the ’Burgh.
The candidates’ platform, CMUnity, aims to unite such diverse interests as their own into a unique campus body.
Among the seven initiatives in CMUnity are “Up for Grads,” the integration of concerns of graduate students into the Senate body, and “In ’Da Burgh,” an effort to involve student government in local platforms.
Two of the initiatives are particularly important to Godbole: “Safety First,” an effort to expand safety by expanding SafeWalk and instituting safe taxis, and “Any time, Any day,” an initiative to extend the hours of campus venues.
“Students don’t have what they need when they need it,” Godbole said, citing examples such as Health Services not being open on weekends.
Itkowitz spoke on the importance of “Tartan Pride,” an effort to increase school spirit among students of all kinds.
“Carnegie Mellon is a place where people don’t do anything half-way,” Itkowitz said. “We’re all so busy and I don’t think we’d be comfortable any other way. People should be more proud of our culture.”
According to Itkowitz and Godbole, campus culture does not need to be changed — students just need to be proud of it.
They also insisted that the seven issues are just starting points for changes.
“We’re really approachable people and want everyone to come talk to us,” Itkowitz said.
A list of all seven CMUnity ideas and further campaign information can be found at (www.jaredandpooja.com).
Sagar Mehta for SBVPF
Sagar Mehta, a sophomore business administration major, hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the position of SBVPF. Mehta joined JFC this year and was the only member not also on the Student Senate.
Instead, Mehta came into the Senate with leadership experience from several student organizations.
Mehta served as the vice president of Mayur-SASA, an orientation counselor, and treasurer of dance group Chak De Bhangra.
“I’m coming from the outside,” Mehta said. “I know the problems and I know how hard the process is, so I can address these concerns.”
Mehta’s main platform area is the reform of the JFC funding process.
Currently, JFC representatives are given their organization assignments in the spring semester and are given about three weeks to determine what budget will be given.
Mehta hopes to move this part of the process to the fall semester so that representatives can familiarize themselves with organizations and the level of funding they require.
Mehta also hopes to change the way in which organizations apply to be considered for budgets.
In the fall, student organizations approved by the Committee of Student Organizations (CoSO) are invited to apply for a chance at funding.
According to Mehta, this step can be taken away.
“Any group recognized by CoSO should be able to apply for funding,” he said. Since almost every student organization is approved, removing this step would allow for the same groups to get funding, but in a quicker, more efficient manner, he explained.
Currently, the JFC receives about 34 percent of the funds acquired from the student activities fee.
Mehta said that it is hard to determine how much the student activities fee should be raised before the process is made more efficient. However, he said that if he were to suggest a change now, he would suggest an increase as small as $10 per student.
“The student activities fee should be used to reward diverse interests,” Mehta said. “In an ideal world, it would reach out to 100 percent of students.”
Mehta hopes that the fee can be more efficiently allocated so that a greater portion of the student body comes under the umbrella of the JFC.
“This is a unique opportunity to work with people on campus and possess the power to enact change in bettering student life,” he said.
Evan Osheroff for SBVPF
There is a lot that Evan Osheroff, a junior business administration major, wants to do for Carnegie Mellon, and all of his top priorities fall under the jurisdiction of SBVPF. Having served on the Joint Funding Committee (JFC) and Student Senate since the beginning weeks of his first year, Osheroff sees SBVPF as the next natural step in effecting change.
Osheroff spent the past two years as chair of the Senate Academic Affairs Committee.
When Osheroff began his time on JFC, he served 16 small organizations with budgets as small as $300. He is now the go-to person for large-scale activities, most recently Spring Carnival 2008. Osheroff has also participated in the organizational side of JFC.
“I have been a resident assistant, vice president of the Undergraduate Investment Club, co-editor of the Carnegie TC Pulse, and a member of Pioneers,” Osheroff said. “So I know what it’s like to be in a diverse bunch of groups and I can relate.”
Osheroff hopes to tackle several key issues if he is elected SBVPF.
He mentioned the importance of transparency, in that students on campus should know what JFC stands for and does. According to Osheroff, there are too many juniors and seniors who are not even familiar with the term.
Osheroff also hopes to make a number of internal changes to the JFC.
These changes include an improved Budget Tracker website, the official site on which organizations submit and see the results of JFC budget requests. An umbrella issue for a number of Osheroff’s platform ideas is the improved allocation of funds.
Osheroff noted that run-offs, or money left unused from budgets, can run as high as $50,000 and, if used correctly, these could result in better bands and comedians for Carnival or more service opportunities for smaller groups.
Osheroff said that the student activities fee plays a key role in improving allocation and increasing student opportunities.
“An increase as small as $15 could result in an additional $90,000 to give to student groups,” he said.
For Osheroff, the best thing about serving as SBVPF would be the ability to immediately enact change.
“I’m most excited to be able to make change myself instead of convincing other people,” he said. “I’ve really seen what’s needed and know what works and what doesn’t.”