News | Student Life

SGA candidates discuss platforms at forum

  • Jess Swanson for Spectator
    MEET THE CANDIDATES | Nialah Edari, BC '17 and candidate for class of 2017 president, spoke at Thursday night's candidate forum.

Candidates for the Barnard Student Government Association discussed their platforms on Thursday night ahead of next week’s elections.

While the candidates’ focuses varied, sexual assault and gender-based misconduct were at the forefront of most of the conversations. 

Most of the positions are contested, including SGA president, vice president for student government, University senator, junior representative to the board of trustees, representative for campus policy, representative for diversity, representative for arts and culture, junior class president, sophomore class president, and sophomore class vice president.

The races for VP for campus life, VP for finance, VP for communications, representative for student services, and representative for college relations are all uncontested. 

Executive Board 

The race of president is between three veteran SGA members—Claudia Flores, BC ’15 and current representative for student services, Hannah Rosenwein, BC ’15 and current junior class president, and Julia Qian, BC ’15 and current representative for diversity. 

Flores said as president, she would use her experience on the policy committee to focus on improving the feeling of campus safety and continuing SGA’s efforts to address issues of gender.

“I want to make SGA more approachable, visible, and effective,” she said. 

Rosenwein hopes to create an adviser review site that would function similarly to CULPA, and support the addition of mental health support groups to the Rosemary Furman Counseling Center, healthier eating options in the dining halls, and more physical education options. She also wants more student input in SGA. 

“The only way to make a difference you want to see is to tell us you want to see,” she said. 

Qian said that one of her goals is to strengthen the student voice for policy changes, citing the current review of the Nine Ways of Knowing curriculum.

“I want more communication between administration and the students,” she said. 

Rachel Chung, BC ’16 and current sophomore class vice president, and Sarah Shuster, BC ’15 and a FemSex facilitator and resident assistant, are running for the VP for student government position.

Shuster said she wants to garner different viewpoints on campus when working with the VP of policy. 

“My motivation comes from the great amount of action I’ve seen outside the SGA community,” Shuster said. 

Chung was not present at the forum, but her platform was read by Ayelet Pearl, BC ’14, and it included continuing to push for sexual assault policy reform and giving students a larger voice in policy making decisions.

University Senators 

Erin Bryk, BC ’17 and the current first-year class president, and Abigail Kim, BC ’16 and the information and technology representative, are running to be Barnard’s representative for the University Senate. 

Bryk said she wanted to focus on standardizing the university’s policy on sexual assault and gender-based misconduct.

Kim wanted to improve Barnard’s awareness of the Columbia global centers, to have open course evaluations, and to work to include recommendations from the SGA’s subcommittee on sexual assault and gender in the policies created by the President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault. 

Representatives

Olukemi Adenjii and Alejandra Figueroa, both BC ’16, are running for the position of junior representative to the board of trustees. 

Adenjii wants to work to engage the student body with the board of trustees and include students from groups around campus. Figueroa, who wasn’t at the forum, wants constant communication with the trustees. 

Savannah May, BC ’17, and Sienna Walker, BC ’16, are both running for representative for campus policy. 

“Students are subject to, but also shapers of, policy,” Walker said, adding that the year she spent on the policy committee would make her well-suited to the position.

May, who wasn’t at the forum and had Pearl read a statement about her enthusiasm for the position, also served on the campus policy committee.

Dania Lewis, BC ’17, Michelle Loo, BC ’16, and Jannie Masoud, BC ’17, are running for representative for diversity, which may be renamed representative for equity and inclusion, pending a proposed amendment.

All the candidates discussed reaching out to student groups to make sure their voices are heard. 

“I know what it feels like to be silenced and I will make sure my community will not feel this way,” Lewis said. 

Class Councils 

The senior class council president and vice president positions are uncontested. Layla Tavangar, BC ’15, and Riya Thekdi, BC ’15, are running for president and vice president, respectively. 

“I want to make sure you have as much fun, school spirit, free food as much as possible,” Tavangar said. 

Thekdi said her priorities included highlighting students’ study abroad experiences and expanding library hours.

Sarah Fels, BC ’16, and Arpi Youssoufian, BC ’16, are both running for junior class president. Youssoufian wants to connect with students studying abroad and reach out to underclassmen, while Fels wants to increase student involvement in SGA with providing a Google Doc for suggestions. 

There are no contestants for the junior class vice president, so someone will be appointed to fill the position. 

There are four candidates for president of the sophomore class: Sarah Kim, Prianka Jhaveri, Rumana Kasime, and Nialah Edari, all BC ’17.

Kasime wants to help students find resources on campus, and Kim wants to continue class events like Stressbusters. 

“I’m not promising there will be any extreme changes, but I will work toward progress,” Edari said. 

Voting begins on April 14 and continues until April 18.

news@columbiaspectator.com  |  @ezactron

Correction: An earlier version of this story quoted Flores as saying "physical." She said "visible." Spectator regrets the error.

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