Last Thursday, April 17, the results of the Vassar Student Association (VSA) elections for the 2014-15 school year were announced. Annually, students vote in April for the next year’s VSA Executive Board, including the VSA President and the Vice Presidents, as well as class and house executive boards and student committee representatives.
This year’s Strong President, Carolina Gustafson ’15, won the position of VSA President. “I ran…because I was surprised to find that I really liked being on the VSA this year as Strong President, but I also noticed during my time on the VSA that the same voices, perspectives and opinions are repeatedly heard over and over again,” she explained.
One factor that made Gustafson run for president was the lack of diverse opinions in the VSA. She said, “I recognize that I hold a large
amount of privilege and cannot know the experiences of all students, but I also want to work to reach out to a variety of real student voices and work to change this culture. I hope to change the VSA from a body that is constantly talking and instead start listening to the needs of students.”
Current Raymond House President Ramy Abbady ’16 ran for VP for Operations because he also wants to see change in the VSA. “A lot of things led to me running,” he said. “There was a strange mix of me enjoying being a part of the VSA while simultaneously being very frustrated with how things went this year. I felt that being on Executive Board would give me much more agency in determining the direction the VSA would go next year.”
Abbady continued, “I ran for Operations specifically because I felt it was the position best suited to changing the VSA’s practices and structure, which is my main goal.”
Gustafson echoes Abbady’s concerns about the structure and culture of the VSA, saying, “I also noticed and repeatedly heard while on the VSA about how the VSA has a terrible reputation on campus because it is currently perceived as being very closed-off and inaccessible,” she said. “These were all issues I had also noticed during my time on the VSA this year and I really wanted to work to change this culture.”
She also thought of her time as Strong President as good experience for the role. “I have been on Strong House Team for two years, and I feel that incorporating more of the culture of the strong—pun intended—community and sense of teamwork we have worked to cultivate in Strong could be beneficial for the workings of the VSA and its relationship with a variety of different students,” she affirmed.
Reuben Moncada ’15, this year’s Main House President, was elected as VP of Activities. Moncada spoke to the campaign process that he underwent in anticipation of the elections.“The campaign process was fine. That week, everything kind of piled up, the election, my job, and a huge pile of schoolwork, so getting out to campaign door-to-door was tough for me. What I ended up doing was resorting to some alternative forms of campaigning. I ordered fortune cookies that said to vote for me on the inside and handed them to people,” he said.
He continued, looking to next year and his role as VP for Activities, “In terms of next year as VP for Activities, a couple of my goals are to encourage and help organizations plan more 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. programming due to a lack of such programming, and to buy more capital items for programming that organizations tend to use often, such as a better sound system for the Mug,” he explained.
Another elected student, Hannah Matsunaga ’16, will be the new VP for Student Life. She echoed many of the sentiments expressed by Moncada about campaigning and the future. She said, “Campaigning went well. Next year, I want to continue the gender neutral bathroom initiative, make the Title IX/sexual assault reporting process easier, work on accessibility in residence halls and try to restructure Metcalf so students have better access to mental health services when school is not in session.”
This year’s 2016 President, Max Moran ’16, ran for VSA executive board to hone his interests. He will be the VP for Finance for the 2014-15 school year. “I’ve been on council already for two years, and a lot of my energy went into Finance Committee,” he said. “As Class President, you’re expected to be involved in many different things, and I was ready to focus my attention on the commitment I cared most about and felt could do the best.”
“Campaigning is never easy and is usually stressful. This was the third time I ran in a campaign at Vassar, and I’ve been nervous every time,” Moran said on the campaigning procedure. “I’ve given so much time to VSA over the past two years, and it’s hard to boil that down into a twenty second pitch to convince others why to vote for you.”
Several hours after voting closes, the results party takes place in the retreat. This year, students collected at tables at midnight on Thursday night. Many candidates reported this time as the most stressful part of the campaigning process.
“I truly felt comfortable with any of the presidential candidates winning,” said Gustafson. “I was also really interested to see who would win each position, and I enjoyed hearing each position be announced.”
“The results party was fun because I brought many friends with me,” Abbady commented on the event.
He continued, “The results were very interesting, because I didn’t know who to expect for almost every election, since we had such a high number of people running this year. It was especially exciting to see who was going to be on Executive Board, with only one position—VP for Academics—uncontested.”
Gustafson is excited with the results, expressing, “I also cannot wait to start working with our new Executive Board. They all are such great people and have such great ideas and I am truly humbled to have the opportunity to work and grow with them.”
“I also am sad to be handing Strong House Team off after being so involved with Strong for two years, but I also have full faith in the new team and cannot wait to see what they accomplish in the coming year,” she continued.
Moran shared Gustafson’s enthusiasm, saying, “I am confident that every elected representative will do a superb job next year. I am excited to work with new people, especially since I don’t know many of the new House Presidents.”
He did, however, recognize that many who wanted a position were shut out. “There were also many people who lost their elections who I have tremendous confidence in, and I really hope they get or stay involved in the VSA in the future. You don’t have to be elected to make a difference.”
Abbady, too, recognized that many qualified candidates weren’t able to hold positions in the VSA in the same way that they may have in the past. “I wish that the VSA Council for next year was a little bit more diverse, but as this is a recurring issue, I’m not too surprised,” he said.
Ultimately, though, he is excited for next year’s VSA. “I do have high hopes for next year. This year’s Council was not nearly as productive as I wish it had been, and I’m looking forward to being in a position where I can really push for meaningful changes, both within the VSA and with administrators,” he noted.
Said Gustafson, “I am so happy to have this opportunity before me and, though I know it is going to take a lot of work, I also cannot wait to see what we can accomplish as a team and as individuals. I am so ready to get to work.”