President — Khaleel James
Although James is running unopposed this Student Association (SA) election cycle, the Editorial Board believes he can be a successful leader for next year’s e-board. In the wake of a high-friction year between students and administrators, James’ personable and welcoming approach to the position could be beneficial. During his time as vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA), he has made it a point to be transparent with the student body, and it appears he will continue to focus on transparency in the presidential position. Given that this has been one of the SA’s most prominent issues in the past, his commitment to continued progress with communication and honesty in the SA is admirable.
Furthermore, James seems to understand the limitations of being in SA leadership, and having a year already under his belt as an e-board member is sure to serve him well in his dealings with administrators. We liked his ideas about increasing student interaction with the Binghamton community, and feel this could be an interesting new area of focus for the SA — one that is necessary as Binghamton University continues to grow and expand into new frontiers outside of its main campus.
Nevertheless, the Editorial Board does have some reservations about James’ candidacy. We feel that James’ platform is relatively vague, and we are disappointed that he doesn’t appear to have reflected more on some of the issues he encountered as VPMA. Some students of color have expressed they haven’t felt particularly heard or well represented by James in his role as VPMA, and we do have concerns that James’ lack of understanding and interest surrounding certain student groups could continue if he is elected president. Furthermore, we question how effectively he will be able to communicate with administrators. While he does have some experience, he seems to think having the presidency will force administrators to listen to him more carefully, and that might not prove to be the case. If he wants to accomplish his goals and create change, he will need to find ways to compromise with administrators, make his goals beneficial to them and create opportunities for leverage. Still, we think James has good things to offer, and if he can narrow his focus a bit and take opportunities to receive feedback and criticism, he will prove to be an excellent choice for president.
Executive Vice President — Maggie Koekkoek
The Editorial Board believes that Koekkoek’s prior SA experience and platform positions will make her a good fit for the executive vice president (EVP) post. Her many semesters working in the SA, including at the reception desk, has made her well versed in the operations of the office. Furthermore, by interacting with many student groups on a daily basis, Koekkoek has developed a nuanced understanding of the SA E-Board’s pitfalls, and we believe she will help the e-board become more transparent and open to feedback from SA-chartered organizations and the general student body.
Koekkoek will bring a loud and authoritative voice to the e-board, which counterbalance James, who is running unopposed. This will make her crucial in talks with administrators, and we believe she will be effective at negotiating with them and finding solutions that benefit everyone. As EVP, Koekkoek will seek to reform the SA leadership conferences, which are in desperate need of a restructure, and will look to implement plans to help the e-boards of clubs transition from year to year. While we feel that Koekkoek could do a better job recognizing that different club’s e-boards work in different ways, her overall plan is sound. Based on her platform, we feel she has a good sense of the current issues on campus and that, should she be elected EVP, she will be in a good position to help the SA respond to them.
Vice President for Finance — Jacob Eckhaus
The vice president for finance (VPF) position typically has a clear line of succession, but this year, the office’s head assistant is a senior, and that left the seat up for grabs. Eckhaus was the only one brave enough to throw his hat in the ring, and overall, the Editorial Board was pleased with his platform. Given he has slightly less experience than the past several VPFs, we hope he will surround himself with people well versed in the SA’s financial policies and running of the office, but we are heartened to see that he, like many of his predecessors, isn’t trying to substantially revamp the position. While that might be considered a downside in some SA E-board roles, it’s a good thing in the VPF seat — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Instead, Eckhaus is proposing some changes in the advisory program, asking advisers to extend their roles to provide greater outreach and support to student groups outside of budget season and preparing to face the SA’s Financial Committee. He is currently a general assistant in the VPF’s office and he has experience with the advisory program. The Editorial Board feels this plan could provide beneficial support to organizations with less experience handling their money and dealing with the SA’s financial policies. However, we are troubled to hear that Eckhaus does not plan to expand the number of advisers available to provide this new assistance to student groups, and we worry that if the office becomes overwhelmed and cannot live up to its promises, it will erode student groups’ trust in the VPF. Therefore, we encourage Eckhaus to develop a contingency plan and carefully consider the risks of implementing a half-baked idea — even if it has the potential to be a good one.
Furthermore, the VPF’s office has experienced several dashboard issues over the past several months, and the Editorial Board urges Eckhaus to take measures to try to prevent issues before they arise. While we know he will work to fix things quickly and communicate clearly with student groups in the event of a dashboard crash, we fear he could be overconfident about the chances of a technological malfunction occurring again. Nevertheless, we believe Eckhaus can make some beneficial changes and continue Alec Somerstein’s solid work in the VPF office.
Vice President for Academic Affairs — Joshua Dorfman
The vice president for academic affairs (VPAA) position requires someone with both a commitment and vision for the student body they seek to represent. Dorfman, an EVP office coordinator and B-Engaged adviser and administrator, is the man for the job. Having already established himself within administrative circles, Dorfman appears well equipped for the kind of work the VPAA office demands. His platform, though ambitious in some respects, can be boiled down to three components: mental health, academic advising and physical well-being. Solutions to issues in these fields vary, but much of what Dorfman brings to the table is fresh and builds upon the good work already done by the VPAA office in the 2019-20 academic year. These plans include exploring methods of bringing off-campus advisers to campus, increasing accessibility to healthy food options and the gym through changes to fees and improving students’ educational experience through specialized workshops and better auxiliary services like printing.
The Editorial Board does have concerns about Dorfman’s already-packed schedule and wide-ranging platform. Although it suggests that he is well experienced, overcommitment can become an impediment to serving the duties of any SA role — especially in the VPAA position. As for his platform, it seems unlikely all of his ideas would be successfully implemented in the course of a year. Still, we see ambition in Dorfman, and should he narrow his focus while in office, that attribute could prove helpful for students across the board. He demonstrates an exceeding important willingness to learn and adapt as is necessary, and appears more than capable of rising to the occasion.
Vice President for Multicultural Affairs — Michael Messina
Although Messina has no prior SA experience, we firmly believe he is well equipped with the essential leadership and communication skills that would make him an effective vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA). In fact, his lack of SA experience would help bring outside experience and knowledge into his wider goal of transparency. Messina’s five-part platform includes mental health, food policy, improving relationships between Binghamton’s New York State University Police and BU students, communication and solidarity. The highly detailed platform is ambitious and most of the projects he proposes will likely not get finished during the academic year, but we believe getting any of it done is an accomplishment in itself, and if his successor can finish what he starts, BU’s multicultural communities will be well served going forward.
Messina is also highly active in the multicultural community on campus, which is crucial to the representing multicultural groups at BU. Currently, he’s the president of the Asian Student Union (ASU), a podcast host for Asian Outlook and the professional chair for the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE). Aside from holding positions in Asian organizations, Messina also makes an effort to connect with the multicultural community as a whole by attending different cultural events and reaching out to other organizations.
Even though David Hatami has experience working in the SA as vice chair of the Internal Affairs Committee, we feel Hatami’s platform for VPMA is not fully developed as Messina’s. In addition, Hatami has fewer connections to the multicultural organizations he would oversee. The Editorial Board is concerned he will not be able to appropriately represent the community’s needs accurately or effectively, which would be his main job as VPMA.
With the tensions from last semester, we believe Messina has the confidence and awareness to represent BU’s multicultural community and work with administration toward improving these issues. We are confident his experience working with the SA’s multicultural groups and his commitment to his platform make him the best fit for VPMA.
Vice President for Programming — Sophia Cavalluzzi
Having been part of the SA Programming Board (SAPB) since her freshman year, Cavalluzzi has a good idea of the department’s challenges and triumphs in years past. Her platform focuses on communication with the student body, which she considers one of the most important elements of the vice president for programming (VPP) position. While her plans aren’t groundbreaking, her openness to student feedback and attention to the obstacles faced by her predecessors are good indicators she’ll carry out her duties with confidence and consideration. She’s already made an active effort to learn from the mistakes of VPPs and learn the intricacies of the role, and she seems prepared to think on her feet in the case of any last-minute upheavals.
She also hopes to grow smaller SAPB events by collaborating with student organizations and catering to diverse interests. We think this is a great step toward expanding the SAPB’s range in meeting the varied needs of our campus’ many cultures, so long as Cavalluzzi ensures that collaborating organizations aren’t suffocated by SA involvement in their events. Overall, Cavalluzzi seems organized, experienced and open to expanding her role to meet the needs of students.
BU Council Representative: None
Pipe Dream is choosing not to endorse a candidate for the BU Council representative seat this year. Both candidates, Willa Scolari and Dante Turnbull, lack the experience necessary to effectively advocate to administrators on the behalf of the student body.
Turnbull does not seem to be heavily involved on campus and while his goal of giving a voice to students of color on campus is laudable, his overall platform seems extremely narrow. He aims to address mental health services and the political climate on campus, but seems to lack understanding of the scope of the BU Council representative role beyond those two issues. Additionally, it’s unclear how he plans to get administrators to listen to him to address these issues. He seems to tread a similar path to current BU Council Representative Franklin Richards, who has not been particularly outspoken during his time on BU Council and has not managed to effect any significant change. With Turnbull’s narrow focus, we worry he would have difficulty addressing issues that affect a variety of populations of students on campus. Additionally, Turnbull doesn’t seem to have much of a plan to communicate his progress back to students or solicit their opinions. He cited the SA as a way to stay in contact with the student body, but it’s worth noting his position is separate from the SA E-Board for a reason.
On the other hand, Scolari’s platform demonstrates a lack of focus. Her ideas are wide ranging but nowhere near fleshed out enough to promise effective change and leadership. She is involved in multiple student groups on campus, but doesn’t seem to have any leadership experience in any of them, and like Turnbull, she doesn’t possess a strong plan for communicating with administrators, determining when to compromise on issues and finding areas to exact leverage to achieve her goals.
In short, neither candidate is prepared to step into the BU Council representative role. This was especially apparent in their timeliness regarding their endorsement interviews. Turnbull missed his first endorsement slot and later had to reschedule with little explanation. Scolari was understandably forced to reschedule her endorsement interview because of illness, but ended up calling in 15 minutes later than she was scheduled to speak with Pipe Dream’s Editorial Board. While we’re willing to be patient with candidates, BU’s administrators most certainly will not take them seriously if they have to wait around for them to show up. These candidates could both be viable with better platforms, more professionalism and a plan to communicate with administrators, but for now, we aren’t convinced they are serious options.
Editor’s note: Willa Scholari and David Hatami contribute to Pipe Dream’s Opinions Section. Neither candidate was involved in the writing of this editorial.