With Student Association (SA) elections approaching fast, and a debate for contested positions occurring later today, Pipe Dream’s Executive Board took the time to allow candidates to share their platform with us as well as a chance to sit down for a brief interview process, leading to a vote by members of the E-Board via a simple majority for endorsements. Provided below are endorsements on behalf of the newspaper as to who we feel would be the most suited candidates to lead the Binghamton University community forward next year, regardless of what that year may look like.
The position of president of the SA is an essential position that holds the power to shape the academic year for all BU students. The E-Board of Pipe Dream also felt it important to recognize the level of responsibility that comes from giving out an endorsement. We feel that some candidates are more suited to the position than others, but that all have significant issues within their platforms, nor do we agree with all the sentiments expressed in any one of their plans. We also feel that there is no standout among the candidates that will push the BU administration to take the actionable recommendations being made this semester toward improving Title IX policies or ensuring a positive outcome of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission led by the Harriet Tubman Center for Freedom and Equity. Instead, we are providing an analysis of all of the candidates and their platforms, and hope that students will be able to have a deeper understanding through our work.
Candidates Joshua Dorfman and David Hatami are the best-suited candidates for the position, but their platforms contain statements and ideas that we feel are not worthy of endorsement at this time. Both candidates have a level of experience that would give them both a support and edge entering their office. Hatami has served as vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA) for the SA, and has been involved with several on-campus groups. His involvement with the creation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee is also commendable. Dorfman also has considerable experience, as he currently serves as vice president for academic affairs (VPAA) and has served as the chief of staff and the B-Engaged coordinator for the Executive Vice President (EVP) last year. His involvement with student organizations and previous work as a resident assistant also indicates that he is in tune to what the student body is concerned about.
That being said, Hatami’s prioritization of maintaining the SA’s “healthy” relationship with the BU administration can work against the student body and neglect their concerns without any real transparency. While he expressed interest to work both with the Violence, Abuse and Rape Crisis Center (VARCC) and the Women’s Student Union in order to combat sexual assault and violence on campus, his plan to create a joint student-faculty committee based on how the Campus Citizens Review Board works with the UPD was not given much explanation. Given the care and deliberation that was put into the review board’s creation, a committee like the one Hatami expressed needs the same careful planning and work to unravel issues of sexual assault on campus, which are complex and systemic and could be overwhelming to just one committee. We feel that this would be a difficult obstacle in the progress that has been made in addressing these issues at the University and would rather prefer a more detailed plan emphasizing students rather than the involvement of faculty, who have been complacent on these issues before. His work within the establishment of the SA is impressive, but overall, his platform does not appear strong enough in terms of pushing the administration toward strong, effective change.
Dorfman’s platform is still a strong one, though the details of how he plans to “bridge the gap” in several areas of campus operations is unclear. He has cited advocacy for diversity, improving campus life through things like healthier food options and working with students of all backgrounds as his main platform. He has even chosen the color purple to represent his campaign, as it meets two opposite colors in the middle, symbolizing compromise and cooperation. While his sentiments expressed are lovely ones, just exactly how he plans to fight for students are unclear. He did help the University push back the spring 2021 semester so that students who were experiencing difficulties with leases in Downtown Binghamton were still accommodated. While his goals of helping as many students as possible seems great, he didn’t communicate solid stances or ideas on particular issues and may not be able to stand up to the administration.
The next two candidates, Joshua Danziger and Logan Blakeslee, have good intentions but lack the organization to execute their platforms effectively. Blakeslee, running on the platform “Pro-Binghamton, Pro-Student, Pro-You!” has noble, but ultimately unrealistic goals. He cited the demilitarization of campus police, voting against increases in student tuition, combating Sodexo’s monopoly of on-campus dining, investigating sexual assault, expanding mental health staff and collaborating with SUNY Broome on homelessness awareness as just a few of his plans. The specifics as to exactly how he will accomplish this, were less clear. All of these ideas are fantastic ones but given how the pandemic has slowed down campus operations, it is unrealistic that all of these will be achieved. While the role of president is a powerful one, it is still subject to limitations by the administration. Without a clear and concise plan, students may be left struggling when it comes to their immediate needs. His roles as SA Congress representative, vice president of College Republicans and former vice president of student affairs at SUNY Broome provide him with experience, but a very full schedule as well.
Danziger has also expressed multiple initiatives, but potentially lacks the experience that would provide him the necessary skills to execute his role as president. His main goal is to help students adjust to life after the pandemic and intends to collaborate with the rest of the SA E-Board to do so. He cited wanting to maintain a productive relationship with UPD, not unlike Hatami’s platform, which raises a few eyebrows given the issues with the department. He cites monthly investigations into UPD as part of this initiative, but it seems contradictory to fostering a positive relationship, as he stated earlier. His plans to mandate DEI courses for students, provide education on the COVID-19 vaccine, increase PCR testing for students and to hold students accountable for breaking social distancing guidelines, are good ideas, but given the issues already at hand regarding the handling of the pandemic, it is unclear just how he will execute these ideas and whether or not they are even feasible at the moment.
Executive Vice President: Sakib Choudhury
Choudhury, the current vice speaker of the SA Congress, is the breath of fresh air that the Executive Vice President’s (EVP) office needs. His acknowledgment and awareness of the problems of the office of EVP are indicative of the fact that he will not simply maintain the status quo. Choudhury expressed intentions to restructure student leadership conferences, a needed change given the difficulties faced by students attempting to attend the conference via Zoom in the fall semester. He also wanted to include both cultural sensitivity and sexual assault training as part of the conference, to ensure all student organizations receive this crucial information. He expressed interest in streamlining the space allocation process, a well-known headache for most SA-chartered organizations.
Next year promises to be a struggle for many student organizations, especially if student life and classes are to transition back to an in-person model. Should Choudhury follow through on these promises, he will not only help lessen the pressure on student organizations but will also help communication between student organizations and the SA.
Vice President for Finance: Tara Lerman
Though Lerman runs unopposed, she too offers a chance to ease the strains on students involved in organizations. She has promised to increase communication between the Vice President for Finance (VPF) office and student organizations, utilizing updated treasurer training, budget presentations and direct and regular outreach to student groups so that they can become more comfortable and familiar with the office, all while keeping others aware of important information and deadlines.
Her previous experiences within the VPF office as an adviser and as treasurer for College-in-the-Woods make her well suited for the position. Finance for SA groups can be an overwhelming nightmare at the best of times, something Lerman is familiar with. The E-Board hopes that she fully commits herself to the position and promises she has made, as she could provide immediate relief and long-term support to student organizations.
Vice President for Academic Affairs: Samantha Carroll
With the pandemic adding both an intense physical and mental burden on students, the vice president for academic affairs (VPAA) has an uphill battle ahead of them. Carroll has served as an SA Congress representative, sitting on the Student Life and Academics Committee, for the past two years and both wrote and defended a resolution supporting the creation of the VARCC, something she intends to work on further in the future.
Carroll has also expressed desire to create a mentorship program between older and younger students within the same major, as well as to find ways for students to safely restart their social interactions and to create a streamlined directory to create easier access to mental health resources. She appears to not only have well-developed plans of action, but her previous experience proves that she can hold her own against the administration.
Vice President for Multicultural Affairs: Mary Hu
Hu has held multiple vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA) positions outside of the SA. She also currently serves as EVP for College-in-the-Woods Council, and she has proven herself to be an involved and grounded leader. She has also worked under both former VPMA and current SA President Khaleel James and current VPMA David Hatami. Her platform not only includes continuing the established relationships of the VPMA, but to also promote new ideas that encourage a sharing of experiences and a celebration of the multicultural community at BU.
Hu’s personal involvement with multicultural clubs shows that she is familiar with the issues the multicultural community on campus face. Recognizing that COVID-19 has impacted attendance numbers and involvement within organizations, Hu has offered exciting, yet realistic solutions to impact students both inside and outside the multicultural community.
Vice President for Programming: Lucas Bianculli
The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed student life and the Student Association Programming Board’s (SAPB) has been working to still provide students with pandemic-safe entertainment and events. Bianculli, who runs unopposed for the vice president for programming (VPP) position, has experience working as concerts chair for SAPB under these difficult circumstances. His platform is wise in the sense that it provides details for both an in-person and remote semester. He also expressed hope in uplifting the multicultural community at BU, having already begun to work on potential programs with members of the MRC.
Bianculli’s experience in event-planning makes him a great candidate for this position, and it is clear that he knows how to navigate remote events in order to keep students engaged. We hope that he pushes his platform as far as possible, and works to improve our current situation rather than maintaining the status quo. His efforts to increase diversity in the types of events planned and speakers invited is also commendable. Hopefully, his role in this position will make students feel as though they are getting somewhat of a normal experience in college, despite the pandemic.
BU Council Representative: Jacob Eckhaus
BU council representative was the second-most contested position this year, and while all the candidates offer similar ideas and platform, Eckhaus is the best-suited candidate for the position. Eckhaus is currently serving as VPF in the SA, serves as a SUNY Student Assembly’s Executive Committee representative and has held leadership positions within several on- and off-campus organizations. He has expressed desire to ensure accessibility within the office of BU Council representative, holding office hours and reaching out to the multicultural community to ensure that no one is excluded.
While there were reservations about his experience for the position, financial background may prove relevant in assisting with reviewing and understanding the University budget. His roles in creating legislation for the DEI Committee, as well as establishing scholarships, demonstrates that he has the drive and ambition to hold the administration accountable and to help support students.
Editor’s note: David Hatami contributes to Pipe Dream’s Opinions Section. This candidate was not involved in the writing of this editorial.