This year, voting for freshman elections began on Monday, September 23 at noon and ran until Wednesday September 25.
After a week of door-to-door campaigning, designing posters and updating Facebook pages, Nnennia Mazagwu ’17 has been elected the new president for the freshmen class.
“I believe one of the most important concerns many students have include communication and representation. I will be a voice for this class, and will strive every day to put the needs of the collective first,” Mazagwu wrote in her candidate statement.
Other newely elected council members include Vice President Jonathan Nichols ’17, Secretary Matthew McCardwell ’17 and Treasurer Esteban Uribe Pinto ’17.
The campaign process forced candidates to meet new peers and interact with a diverse group of contenders while vying for a position on the Vassar Student Association (VSA).
Serving on the VSA is a chance for students to act as the representative voice of their class amongst the college and administration. That said, being a part of the VSA means different things to different candidates; in emailed interviews, some of class of 2017 presidential candidates enumerated their reasons for running.
Stephanie Jump ’17 and Drew Leventhal ’17 both expressed a desire to “make a difference,” Laura Wood and Cecil Carey separately announced their common goal of making the freshman class noticed, or in Wood’s words demonstrat[ing] to the school what she can do. Dan Fu Ruan explained, “I’ve felt so welcome and comfortable in the past three weeks at Vassar that representing my fellow Vassar students seems natural.”
While the campaign experiences have been varied, there seem to be a few common denominators among the crowd’s campaign tales.
The hanging of slogan-bearing posters had been a long-time classic, and many of this year’s candidates partook in the practice. Jump said in an emailed statement, “Campaigning has been pretty fun! I made posters with some cheesy slogans with the help of my friends. I’m lucky that ‘Jump’ is an easy name to work with.”
Uribe Pinto shared similar sentiments in an emailed statement. “I had a lot of fun coming up with catchy slogans to promote my message. I have received mostly positive feedback from my posters and my campaign overall,” he wrote.
One part of campaigning that many of the freshman candidates remarked upon in their interviews was the experience of approaching their fellow freshmen in person. Jump noted, “Today, I’m going to hand out flyers and try to talk to as many people as possible. I really want to connect with my class on a personal level as opposed to just online.” Many candidates took to the streets and dorm halls in order to reach out to the fellow students. Some candidates expressed excitement, and even gratitude for this chance to branch out. Wood wrote enthusiastically, “The most enjoyable tactic, however, was meeting people face-to-face. I got to get to know so many people from all over campus.”
Ruan similarly explained, “My experience campaigning has been an adventure. I’ve been canvassing at the residential houses and it’s been quite fun seeing the range of dorms on campus.”
Leventhal revealed that he felt some apprehension about approaching strangers. “Campaigning has been kind of strange,” he noted. “I am not somebody who can really jump into a conversation uninvited so it has been tricky sometimes.”
However, Leventhal also saw his attitude change. He also explained, “The door-to-doors have been great! People seemed really interested.”
Jacob Devasagayam ’17, who also ran for president, shared in the excitement, but pointed out one challenge that he faced. Devasagayam noted, “The best thing about campaigning is that it gives me an opportunity, and oftentimes an excuse, to meet new people. Vassar has so many great individuals and campaigning has allowed me to get to know so many individuals on a personal level.”
He continued, “It has been difficult to gauge methods that would best allow me to meet the most people. It is hard to find organized ways to meet people and hear their opinions and thoughts on what can be done to better our school.”
The election process has been fairly consistent. Many of last year’s frustrations were expressed again this year, the largest of which being the difficulty of voter outreach within such a short-time span. Wood explained, “I have been trying to get my name out to 665 people, which has been incredibly stressful. I think that is probably the hardest part.”
Facebook had expedited the process and allowed wider audiences to get a glimpse of voter campaigns without needing to attend the debate or meet the candidates in person. Pages promoting candidates have become critical forums to encourage familiarity with names of those running.
Additionally, some candidates felt somewhat of a struggle countering student apathy toward the process. Often it is not enough to rely on turnout for the Candidates Debate since only a small percentage of classmates attend. The perceived nonchalance with elections is undoubtedly a barrier future runners will have to face.
Despite the long hours put into campaigns, Sophomore Class President and last year’s Freshman Class President Max Moran ’16 recognizes that not everything is under the candidates’ control. He noted, “A lot of it comes down to luck.” Often, successful outreach and student interest is beyond those candidates’ control who have limited resources. Moran offered advice to newly elected students. “Fight for the things that are important, and let the insignificant things go. We spend too much time debating rules and regulations and too little time on things that are important to the students,” he said.