Sunday, Sept. 17, marked the end of the Vassar Student Association’s (VSA) annual fall elections, which appoint first-year representatives to different positions within the student association. 20 positions within the VSA were filled, including the VSA Vice President position. Cody Harmon ’19 was elected as VSA Vice President, his election coinciding with the other first-year positions announced this past Sunday night.
As per usual in fall VSA elections, three VSA Senate positions, two Committee positions, nine House Team positions and four judicial board positions were up for grabs. More unusual, however, was the recent resignation of VSA President Miranda Amey ’19, prompting current VSA President Anish Kanoria ’18, to step into the role, leaving his former Vice President seat vacant. Thus, in addition to the regularly scheduled fall election cycle, the VSA conducted a special election to fill the seat.
Chair of the Board of Elections and Appointments (BoEA) Nora Eigenbrodt ’18 said, “I think the election went really well. I appreciated the enthusiasm that the first-year students showed and how eager they were to learn about the positions and the process.” She added, “For both elections, I’m glad that BoEA was able to get them done so quickly because that was one of our top priorities. Anish and I agreed that it was important to have a full [executive board] as soon as possible.”
Harmon, a junior at Vassar, is a member of the Posse program, which enrolls U.S. veterans in elite schools across the country. Cody is among Vassar’s third Posse cohort. He has previously worked as a Transitions sophomore advisor and is currently the student liaison for the Office of Campus Life and Diversity.
Harmon, in his campaign statement, wrote, “As a proud nontraditional, first-generation and low-income student, we have much work to make our campus and community more inviting and attracting to those who have and have not heard of Vassar … You have my pledge of commitment for accountability, transparency and inclusiveness that you deserve and require!”
All students were eligible to vote in the vice-presidential election, while only first-years voted for the first-year positions. Harmon was elected from a field of four candidates to fill the position of vice president.
Four first-year students were elected to the VSA Judicial Board: Josephine Schermerhorn, Mohamad Mounir Safadieh, Audrey Godwin and Ali Sadek. All judicial board positions were uncontested.
Three first-year VSA Senators were named as well: Sara Shirodkar as the 2021 Senator for Activities, Diego Betancourt as the 2021 Senator for Strategic Planning and Miles Mitchell as the 2021 Senator for Student Affairs.
Shirodkar is an international student from Mumbai, India. “My goal here is simple,” she said in her statement of candidacy, “to give you a memorable Vassar experience. Furthermore, as an international student, I would focus on bridging any cultural gaps in Vassar activities and ensuring that everyone has equal access to them.
Betancourt is from Keene, NH. He hopes to bring a bicultural perspective to the VSA. “Perspective and understanding is paramount in working with others, and with these qualities I feel I can best represent your interests and get things done,” Betancourt wrote.
Mitchell is from Pasadena, CA. In his statement, he wrote, “Public service has been a passion of mine from a young age, and it would be both an absolute honor and privilege to continue that journey representing you in our Senate.”
Next, Sicily McLaughlin ’21 was elected to the VSA Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid, and Sanaya Shikari ’21 was elected to the VSA Committee on College Life.
McLaughlin, a QuestBridge scholar, is concerned with flaws in current admissions and financial aid practices at Vassar. “While our financial aid policy meets 100 percent of demonstrated need now,” McLaughlin wrote in her statement, “political and socioeconomic changes in our country may change how we deal with giving new students access to Vassar’s top tier education … It is my firm belief that education should empower students from all backgrounds and I want to help Vassar in empowering students whether they come from an upper-middle-class background of are part of the FLI [first-generation and low-income] community like me.”
Shikari, in her statement, wrote of the many extracurricular opportunities at Vassar. She suggested that our busy schedules are what allow us to become the best possible versions of ourselves. “These are supposed to be the ‘best four years of our lives,’” she wrote, “and I hope that as a firstyear representative on the committee on college life, I can help provide that.”
In addition, Ivan Gong ’21 was named as the Board of Elections and Appointments First-Year Representative. Gong is not new to elections; as secretary of his high school’s student council, he reformed and oversaw the council’s election process. In his statement, Gong wrote, “My obsession with electoral fairness is the best assurance that in electing me as your representative, your right in elections will be ensured.”
Nine house team representatives, one for each residential house, were named Sunday as well. Emily Frank is Strong’s new first-year representative. Nicholas Gorman will be representing Raymond, Emily Chong has been elected to represent Noyes house and Main’s first-year representative is Joshua Lacoste. Lathrop’s is Andrew Luo, Samantha Steeves was named Jewett’s first-year representative and Natalie Kim will be representing Davison. Finally, Prashit Parikh will be representing Cushing.
VP and Senatorial candidates sat for a question-and-answer session Thursday night, taking questions from The Miscellany News regarding their goals as elected representatives. The evening began with the Class of 2021 Senator for Activities candidates, with each of the three delivering a one-minute opening statement.
The candidates then answered a question about safe and inclusive programming. Shirodkar reflected on her own experience coordinating activities and organizing events since she was in eighth grade. She expressed hope that she could represent her class in organizing activities at Vassar.
Next up were the candidates for 2021 Senator for Strategic Planning. Betancourt, in his opening statement, remarked, “The most important question of this election is that of the direction you want to see Vassar going toward.” He further indicated that he hopes to see Vassar move in the direction of inclusivity: “I will work to ensure that the VSA’s decisions are in everyone’s best interest.”
Candidates for 2021 Senator for Student Affairs answered questions next. “I really enjoy the strong sense of community that Vassar provides,” said Mitchell. He stressed that student affairs should address campus concerns on a broad yet personal level, reminding his constituents that politics is local.
After the first-year candidates, the vice-presidential candidates took the stage. Harmon ran against three other vice-presidential candidates: Pietro Geraci ’18, Bryan Fotino ’20 and Allison Breeze ’19. Harmon himself could not make it to Thursday evening’s session, as he was attending a military ceremony in Washington, D.C. He did, however, prepare responses in advance; those answers were read via a proxy Thursday night.
“Even though I am not physically there, my commitment to transparency, inclusivity and bettering our community—for us, by us—is still intact,” wrote Harmon.
The Miscellany News, while moderating the debate, inquired about the candidates’ concrete steps in realizing the VSA’s principles of accountability and transparency. Harmon’s response read as follows: “To its credit, the VSA is fulfilling its commitment to accountability and transparency this year. As vice president, I will continue to encourage the standards already in place.” Harmon also stressed the importance of student feedback. “I would love to add more community conversations with students,” he remarked, emphasizing communication between students, administration and faculty.
The next question from The Miscellany News asked candidates what challenges they expected in executing their vice-presidential duties. “I see challenges of patience and time,” Harmon wrote. “I hope to rely on my own accountability buddies: you all.” He revealed that communication and being with people is a priority for him. “Your voice is powerful, valuable, and needed and respected … I believe in teamwork.”
Next were candidates’ closing statements, in which Harmon began with praise of VSA President Anish Kanoria ’18: “Everyone knows me as a fan of Anish, because of his consistent passion to make lives better. I learned a lot about the things I am passionate about in my first year in Cushing House [when Kanoria served as house president].” Next, Harmon reflected on his passion for people. “Most people do not know that I am an introvert and shy. But people give me their energy so often that I lose track of my insecurities. I love people, I really do.” Harmon touched also on the importance of voting, adding that he is indebted to the Vassar community.
Candidates then responded to a few questions from constituents in the audience before ending the session for the night.
Students voted for their peer representatives from Friday until Sunday afternoon, when voting closed.