President — Jerry Toussaint
Early next week, Binghamton University’s undergraduate students will pick one of three candidates to lead an organization that they pay into every semester but largely don’t understand. For too many BU students, even those who are heavily involved in campus life, the Student Association (SA) appears to be a distant body whose main responsibility is to dole out funds for clubs.
That’s why our Editorial Board is endorsing Jerry Toussaint for SA president. His platform is, simply put, the most practical and direct of the three candidates running for the position. We feel his current roles as chief of staff in the SA President’s office, a member of the Off Campus College Council and president of Kappa Alpha Psi, a multicultural fraternity, have given him solid experience to draw from that will serve him well as president.
Toussaint has provided a clear picture of how to solicit and process student feedback through an online form he plans to call BU Onward. The interface will collect feedback for the executive board on the SA website and information will also be shared with the student body if it leads to helpful insight and solutions. His platform’s greatest strength is its scale — he plans to continue existing projects, like space reallocation and expanding B-Alert, while connecting more students to University committee openings and centralizing information so it is easily findable and digestible.
Furthermore, Toussaint impressed us with his knowledge of the scope of the SA president’s role and in his hyperfocus on his potential position as advocate for the student body. His platform includes a concrete plan to expand Off Campus College Transport bus service by turning campus shuttles into Downtown Express lines late at night. And while it’s not completely realistic in the short term, Toussaint said he wants to reclaim the University Union as a space for students, a somewhat idealistic notion that we generally support given the current shortage of space for SA clubs and students around campus. We give our endorsement to Toussaint because he has the potential to set a strong foundation for a future of increased student advocacy and effectiveness by the campus’ largest body.
While Michael Wuest’s platform for increasing engagement between students and community is well-meaning, we found his expectations for what this relationship would look like to be far-removed from roles that have traditionally been the SA’s priorities — one of his suggestions is to help clubs table at community events off campus, which would likely be an inefficient way of being involved with residents of the Binghamton area. Like last year, he is interested in strengthening student fundraising efforts for the Nature Preserve, which we feel isn’t focused in the direction of the needs and priorities of the student body.
Rachel Anszelowicz, meanwhile, did not appear to be experienced enough within campus leadership to carry the responsibilities of SA president. While her intentions are to make the SA more accessible to the student body, she did not provide any tangible ways to accomplish this goal.
Executive Vice President — Michelle Dao
Although Dao is running uncontested, we are confident she would make an excellent executive vice president (EVP). She currently holds the position of senior business consultant and assistant to the EVP, and her expertise in this position, coupled with her past role as president of Roosevelt Hall of Hinman College and her involvement in organizations on campus like the Vietnamese Student Association, the Asian Student Union and the BU Student Ambassador Program, have prepared her well to take on the responsibilities of the EVP.
Dao wants to improve the relationship between the SA and student groups by diversifying the office and hiring a more personable staff that caters to students from a multitude of backgrounds. She understands the importance of representation and acknowledges the need for a diverse staff that can help and serve all students at BU.
Additionally, she wants to work to improve the marketing and public relations department (MAP) in the SA. Dao recognizes the necessity of higher readership of the SA Line and how it can be used to increase transparency within the organization. She knows it’s important for everyone on campus to be aware of the work the SA is doing and the successes of student groups, which foster a greater connection among members of the campus community.
Vice President for Finance — Kevin Darrell
Darrell is running unopposed, but we are confident in his abilities. His platform, which consists of plans to increase efficiency, accessibility, storage and accountability, is nuanced. Specifically, his proposal for increasing communication between the VPF office and treasurers and presidents of student organizations through newsletters, workshops and guiding resources and his plan to increase tracking of vouchers to boost transparency demonstrate a solid understanding of the VPF role.
Additionally, Darrell is currently head assistant to the VPF and vice chair of the Finance Committee, and his platform is only bolstered by this extensive experience within the SA. This year, progress was made in the VPF office, especially with making forms and vouchers submittable online and providing more support for student groups struggling to manage their budgets. As head assistant to the VPF, Darrell was part of these changes, and his experience should help him build on these advancements. Furthermore, he appears passionate about working with SA-chartered organizations to meet their needs and communicating within the SA E-Board to form a cohesive leadership body. We fully believe he can fulfill his promises and implement his plans, and we feel he is the right man for the job.
Vice President for Academic Affairs — None
Pipe Dream is choosing to not endorse a candidate for vice president of academic affairs this year. Of the two candidates — Doug Wehbe and Emily Lubin, a write-in candidate — we felt neither student would be able to properly carry out the responsibilities handled by the VPAA office.
Wehbe, who is currently an assistant within the VPAA office, discussed a platform that included reform for SOOT Surveys, but claimed Rate My Professors would be an adequate alternative to the evaluation process at BU. He also mentioned that he wanted to work with student groups that teach their members professional or academic skills, and help students find their way to such extracurriculars, but the VPAA office traditionally interacts more with the administrative side of academia, making these goals outside the scope of the VPAA position.
Lubin, meanwhile, would likely find difficulty in carrying out much of her platform, which includes establishing new majors and minors in photography and data science. But some of these goals are already in progress and might be outside the purview of the VPAA office; she is also interested in working with the University’s mental health resources, but failed to name a tangible method of facilitating improvements within BU’s variety of mental health-related resources.
Vice President for Multicultural Affairs — Andy Jean-Baptiste
Although he presented a rather odd and vast agenda of plans, Andy Jean-Baptiste’s top goals include continuing to diversify the Binghamton University community and encouraging collaboration between multicultural and noncultural groups. His experience participating in SA Congress and serving as an assistant in the VPMA office will elevate his ability to succeed as VPMA.
Jean-Baptiste also clearly demonstrated that he is in touch with students and their wish lists — he wants to advocate for Caribbean dining on campus as well as constructing a programming committee devoted to coordinating premier multicultural events. Nevertheless, he should seek to narrow his focus, and rather than developing free fitness classes or developing leadership and skill workshops, Jean-Baptiste should strive to enhance campus unity. Ultimately, we expect Jean-Baptiste will achieve his goals and implement a sense of multicultural pride on campus.
Vice President for Programming — Courtney Mitchell
In our opinion, Courtney Mitchell is an ideal candidate for VPP. He has experience working with the SA and SA Programming Board, but also with organizations like WHRW and HackBU, making him both knowledgeable about the workings of student government while also tuned in to the concerns and needs of the student body.
Mitchell has appropriately assessed the state of the office he is running for, saying it needs to focus on increased student involvement and enthusiasm, rather than on creating new events. He is pragmatic about the cost of supporting student performances and events and suggested outside funding sources to aid in establishing and furthering efforts to encourage multicultural programming.
He, like other candidates on this ballot, emphasized transparency and the importance of student feedback, suggesting his office establish social media polls, an inbox on the SA website and determining point people for students to contact with questions, thoughts and concerns.
Mitchell has already demonstrated this commitment by citing concert ticket sales in his platform. His plans respond directly to student feedback given after the Post Malone concert, saying he will give students priority in purchasing tickets in an effort to limit illegal and expensive secondhand ticket sales. Before even taking office, Mitchell has his ear to the ground — and you should put a check by his name.
Disclaimer: Mitchell is a member of Pipe Dream’s photography department. He was not involved in the writing of this endorsement.
Student Activity Fee — Yes
In addition to voting on the 2018-19 SA E-Board, students will be faced with a referendum on the undergraduate activity fee, asking them to vote for whether the activity fee should remain mandatory for all students, or if it should become voluntary. Currently, the fee is mandatory, and every semester, each student pays $99, in addition to tuition and other fees. The money from the student activity fee goes to the Student Association, which in turn funds all SA programming, services like Harpur’s Ferry student ambulance and Off Campus College Transport and more than 300 student groups on campus.
We feel students should vote to keep the undergraduate activity fee mandatory for all students. Although it is a significant amount of money, the fee goes toward services that students use and helps fund groups that make Binghamton University a vibrant, inclusive place. Additionally, the fee provides unique opportunities for students, including events like Spring Fling and Multicultural Extravaganza. Furthermore, the fee ensures undergraduates at BU have a student government to advocate for their concerns. Without this mandatory fee, all of these benefits could go away or be dramatically reduced.