After weeks of campaigning, four Freshmen were elected to the Freshmen Class Council, as well as the class president who will sit on the VSA Council. Juleen Graham was elected to the position of Freshmen Class Treasurer, Anna Meaney was elected as Freshmen Class Secretary, Kevin Pham was elected as Freshmen Vice President, and Rebecca Pober was elected as Freshmen Class President.
After being elected, the four new members of the Freshmen Class Council reflected on the election process, as well as their goals and hopes for the future on the Council from a variety of positions, reflecting the diverse reactions to the nerves inherent in running for an elected position in a new enviornment. Graham expressed her positive experience with the election process. She said in an emailed statement, “I really liked the restrictions on the amount that could be spent by candidates on campaign finances. Coming from a country where there is still debate about whether or not to limit capping funding I was really glad to see that implemented here.”
She continued, “I especially liked that funds were made available to candidates who might have needed money to finance their campaign so that they were not put at a disadvantage.”
However, the experience was not the same for elected secretary. Meaney said in an emailed statement, “The election process was pretty stressful because I didn’t feel like I had time to do everything I wanted to get done, especially regarding making posters and going door to door (neither of which I had time to do).”
The Freshman Class Secretary also posited a change for the electoral process given her experience. She remarked, “The primary thing I would change about the election process would be the debate. I attended, and while it did definitely help me to get a better understanding of the candidates, I felt as though it would have been more illuminating had it been an actual debate instead of each candidate just answering the question down the line.”
Although relatively new to campus, as the student leaders of their class, they have quickly sought to appraise themselves of the issues on campus. As the treasurer, Graham already identified what she believed to be the largest issue facing our campus. “A major issue on campus is definitely the price of the meal plan. It is really distressing when you think about the cost of each meal swipe and that these meal plans are mandatory for some students,” Graham explained.
She continued, “It is really not fair to us students and our families. Not only did the price of a meal swipe increase, but the total number of meal swipes was also lessened.”
Meaney addressed some issues which may be invisible to a members of the community, she stated that the largest issue facing campus in her mind. Meaney argued that the marginalization of certain voices on campus. She noted, “I see privileged individuals feeling as though Vassar’s campus is extremely diverse when that is not necessarily the case.”
Pham has past experience as the treasurer; he served as the treasurer of his senior class and president of a nonprofit called Project Change in high school. He believes that these experiences have taught him to be efficient, communicative and organized. Pham believes that these skills will translate into effective leadership and an empowered voice for creative programming.
He stated “[I hope to] organize more inter-class events, organize more inter-house events, and listen to the voices and needs of his constituents.” In order to understand better the different perspectives and experiences of students, be they racial, socio-economic, sexual, or gendered, Pham hopes to visit different centers such as the African American/Black, Latina/o, Asian/Asian American, Native American Alliance (ALANA) Center, the LGBTQ Center and the Women’s Center to learn more about his diverse constituency.
Meaney echoed Pham’s sentiment. She remarked, “To me, (and Rebecca also voiced this desire), the best way to include the more silence voices of students who don’t feel adequately represented is to go speak to these groups directly…This comes in the form of visiting clubs of minorities such as the ALANA center and speaking to people face to face.”
Pober has past experience being the founder and president of the Youth in Government Club at her high school, serving on the Eastern Shore Youth Chamber of Commerce, as well as being a Girl Scout Ambassador. Three actions she aims to take this year are related to communication, dining, and class unity and pride.
In terms of communication, Pober explained that she sees the apathy towards need to be changed. She remarked, “I’d like to decrease apathy towards the VSA by educating the student body on what the VSA actually does. The Class Secretary Anna and I are soon to be in the process of making a visual chart that explains what the VSA is, does, and how it helps students.”
Pober continued, “Also, part of this problem results from students just not knowing what’s going on. I am changing that through honest, open, and active communication with the class.”
Furthermore, Pober spoke about specific ways in which she plans on incorporating the voices of constituents that may not feel represented adequately by student government.“I plan on getting a 2018 Class Council Suggestions Box put into the College Center for students who wish to have their suggestions and concerns submitted anonymously. If anyone does not feel adequately represented, I will ensure that I voice their concerns loudly to the Class Council and the VSA Council,” Pober explained. “Also, I am always encouraging people to come to the VSA Council meetings every Sunday at 7pm in the College Center, having more students-at-large attend those meetings is really important.”
The representatives said that they were open to staying in touch with their constituents through methods such as Facebook and email, they believe that face-to-face interactions will allow them to do their best to address issues. Graham noted, “First of all, my door is always open. Even if someone just wants to say “hi” or just wants a hug, I am here. I’ll let them know that they can feel free to talk to me if they need/want to.”