Candidates for next year’s Student Association (SA) Executive Board took the stage on Tuesday to present their ideas before the upcoming election.
Held in Old Union Hall, the debate allowed the 15 candidates on the ballot to make a final case for their candidacy. Of the seven elected SA positions, four — executive vice president (EVP), vice president for finance (VPF), vice president for student success (VPSS) and vice president for programming (VPP) — saw an uncontested field. The candidates were allotted time for opening and concluding remarks, as well as time to answer questions from moderators and audience members and rebut assertions from opponents.
The most popular race was for SA President — the chair of the E-Board and the functional head of the SA. In their opening remarks, the five candidates made distinct appeals to the student body. Logan Blakeslee, the first to present and a junior double-majoring in history and political science, described his vision for the future of the SA.
“What I want to do fundamentally, is to steer the [SA] into a heightened role of activism,” Blakeslee said. “One that we have not previously seen, but one that I think we are in dire need of.”
Blakeslee criticized Binghamton University’s Parking Services for charging students ticket appeals fees, also criticizing Sodexo for allegedly serving pork in foods labeled halal, kosher and vegan in the Appalachian Collegiate Center, College-in-the-Woods Dining Center and Hinman Dining Hall.
Anindya Debnath, the current VPSS and a sophomore double-majoring in economics and political science, listed his titles at BU, which include faculty senator and board member of the Campus Citizens Review Board (CCRB). Debnath’s presidential platform included more funding for the University Counseling Center (UCC) and new grants for student organizations.
The next candidate was Elisheva Ezor, a junior double-majoring in mathematics and business administration, who communicated her approach to the presidency.
“There are so many different types of students on this campus, and you have to look at the perspectives, opinions and needs that all of those students have,” Ezor said. “In order, as president, to represent all those voices and come up with initiatives that are that representative, you need to know how to listen.”
Galileo Savage, a junior majoring in political science, opened next with his ideas for a potential first-term.
“I plan to implement two-credit courses for [Off Campus College Transport] training to combat the shortage of drivers and make sure that travel to classes and work is fluent for individuals that live off campus,” Savage said. “Next, I plan to incorporate driver’s education in collaboration with Adaptive Driving Services. I will [also] implement town hall meetings, held bimonthly with [professional] staff, administration, directors and [Residential] Life.”
The last presidential candidate was Ben So, a junior double-majoring in history and philosophy, politics and law, who appeared on Zoom from studying abroad in South Korea. So’s platform included bringing a new perspective to the SA to increase awareness and accountability, quickly filling the SA Judicial Board and updating how a president communicates with the student body.
An audience member addressed all five candidates during the questioning period, asserting that only one engaged with the Black Student Union (BSU) during recent Black History Month events, and asked how each would support the Black community in office. The responses ranged from referencing past experiences advocating for communities of color in various roles at BU, past leadership coordinating events and promises to learn and listen if elected.
The contest for BU Council Representative saw three candidates share their respective experiences and their ideas for the position. The person elected serves as the voice of the student body on the BU Council, which “reviews budget requests, makes regulations for student conduct, supervises student housing and safety, names buildings and grounds and reviews plans for improvement.”
The candidates largely agreed on holding office hours and being active on social media to increase accessibility, though they diverged on ideas of age and experience. Nora Monasheri, a senior majoring in business administration, expressed the importance of the time each candidate has spent at BU.
“I think it’s important to notice who has been here, done the most [and] who has a large outreach, especially for off-campus students,” Monasheri said. “I live off-campus, and it’s a great experience to get to see the best of both worlds. Make sure that you’re choosing a person that has the time at [BU].”
In response, Victoria Barics, a senior double-majoring in psychology and philosophy, politics and law, listed her leadership experience and emphasized her service to prospective students through the Admissions Department and as a resident assistant (RA), as well as serving on the E-Boards for Support Empathy Empowerment Kindness (SEEK), the Food Co-Op and several other organizations.
The last candidate, Sophia Yazdi, a freshman majoring in economics, highlighted her relative youth as a possible advantage.
“One thing that separates me from the other candidates here is that I am a freshman,” Yazdi said. “That might make some people doubt my level of experience, but being a freshman allows me to come onto this campus and see it with new eyes. I’m going to be fully immersed [on campus] — rather than being done with my time here, I’m just beginning.”
The vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA) segment also featured three candidates, who largely agreed on substance and possible initiatives. In her opening statement, Khalimah Choi Owens, a junior double-majoring in economics and integrative neuroscience, introduced her vision of a more unified multicultural community.
“My three driving pillars of my campaign are communication, collaboration and community,” Choi Owens said. “I aim to create stronger, more unified outreach, collaboration and mutual support across cultural organizations by implementing a unified email newsletter that will spotlight all upcoming multicultural events.”
The other two candidates — Adejo Ibrahim, a sophomore majoring in economics, and Krizia Yao, a sophomore majoring in human development — echoed the idea of stronger relationships between different groups, lamenting the separation that exists between cultural groups at BU. Proposed ideas included socials for E-Boards and food-focused events that would showcase different cultural traditions and heritages.
For vice president for finance (VPF) — a position responsible for setting financial policy and approving all SA expenditures — the current officeholder, Daniel Croce, a junior majoring in business administration, ran unopposed for reelection. Croce, also the chairman of OCCT, cast his second term as an expansion of his initial platform, which included transparency, clarity, efficiency and advocacy.
Croce listed several accomplishments of his first term, including “overhauling” the office, providing Amazon tax-exempt status for SA groups and finalizing the pilot program for next semester’s Venmo payment alternative “for the first time in SA history.”
The sole candidate for executive vice president (EVP) — an office responsible for overseeing the administration of SA-chartered groups and operating the B-Engaged platform — was Chance Fiorisi, the president of the College Democrats and a sophomore majoring in political science. Fiorisi criticized the length and ambiguity of the current club-chartering process, and laid out a plan to increase transparency and involve himself in modernizing the office.
Sydney Ferreira, a junior majoring in anthropology, introduced her platform for vice president for programming (VPP) — which oversees the Student Association Programming Board (SAPB), the events branch of the SA. She affirmed the desire to make events more accessible and inclusive, and to introduce more ways for officials to receive feedback after events.
In response to an audience question challenging the lack of diversity at the fall 2022 Yung Gravy concert, Ferreira discussed her ideas going forward.
“I really respect, appreciate and admire all of the efforts placed so far, but I think we can’t say that [BU] is inclusive until things like that stop happening,” Ferreira said. “I am really passionate about making these connections with people who are often underrepresented, so tabling [and] going to different events that I am not always aware of will be important to me.”
The candidate for vice president for student success (VPSS), Luca Cassidy, a sophomore double-majoring in economics and sociology, was not present at the debate for medical reasons.
Christopher Ribarić, chair of the SA Elections and Judiciary Committee, emphasized the importance of open debate of ideas in student government.
“It’s important for students to hear from the candidates so they can better understand what they bring to the table,” Ribarić wrote in an email. “Each candidate had their own unique platforms and ideas for how to make the University a better place. It is now up to the students to decide which platforms they believe will make that change.”