SGA’s Candidates’ Forum Is Not A Debate

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A look from Broadway into the McIntosh Dining Room on the second floor of the Diana Center. It's a very orange building in its walls and carpets.
A look from Broadway into the McIntosh Dining Room on the second floor of the Diana Center. It's a very orange building in its walls and carpets.

This room looks much orange-er in the daytime

It’s election season in all the undergraduate schools, and Barnard is no exception. The Student Government Association held a candidates forum last night, and Bwogger Ross Chapman went to review the forum. 

Barnard’s SGA is much nicer than Columbia’s CCSC. At the very least, the speakers at SGA’s Candidates’ Forum were much more polite than those at the CCSC debate. Tuesday night’s event in the McIntosh Dining Room in the Diana center were characterized more by snapping than shouting. In the last SGA event before polls opened at 11 pm, Fall 2017’s candidates gave two-minute speeches on their platforms and took questions from the audience.

Fourteen of the twenty-two positions up for election were uncontested, including three of the five positions on SGA’s executive board. Also uncontested were all of the President and Vice President positions for the class councils. Further downplaying the competitive nature of the night were about a half-dozen stand-in speeches, where abroad (or busy) candidates had their speeches read by confidantes.

Even those who ran unopposed still gave passionate speeches and took questions. Nominee for Campus Affairs Rep Mia Lindheimer, also a Deputy Editor for Bwog, advocated for “a technology overhaul” to fix the Barnard sign-in system and policies. Tamar Dayanim, Nominee for Junior Rep to the Board of Trustees, wanted transparency (a theme of the night) from the student reps who spoke to the trustees. Evie McCorkle, running for VP of finance, rattled off her impressive SGA track record and spoke of her partnership with Nominee for Sophomore President Rose Reiken to subsidize laundry costs. And one of the last speakers of the night, Nominee for VP of Campus Life Aku Acquaye, encouraged all nominees present of their success in student leadership, and expressed excitement for all of the women of color running for positions.

At the Representative level, battles were fought over the reps for Sustainable Initiatives, Inclusion and Equity, Food and Dining, Seven Sisters Relations, and Health Services. Both Food and Dining nominees called for better labeling of ingredients and more options for vegan and Halal diets. Kristen Akey demanded answers from Aramark on how local and sustainable Barnard’s ingredients are, while Sarah Bronicser advocated for better swipe sharing and meal donation while making a token appeal to food insecurity.

Three students ran for Rep of Inclusion and Equity – Yabi Asrat, Sandy Gooen, and Kashaf Doha. Doha spoke more fiercely than any other candidate of the night as she put forward plans to help low-income students via more than just “words of solidarity” by securing funding in case of the elimination of Pell Grants and solving the “unjust” winter housing policy. Asrat advocated for making students more aware of equity-related grants and waivers, and insisted that SGA ought to have an active role in the training and hiring of Barnard faculty with an eye towards inclusion. Gooen was not present, but their speech focused on inclusion for trans and gender non conforming students, especially current and incoming trans women, and called for a more widespread discussion of microaggressions on campus.

The most contentious debates of the night were over Health Services and Sustainable Initiatives. Maham Karatela believed that health, “one of the most basic rights of humans,” should not be a worry for students at Barnard, and spoke of future free fitness and self-care events. Mollie Zanger wanted to “bust the stress culture” through better scheduling technology for Furman, and proposed first-year and transfer programming on how to navigate the healthcare system. Valerie Jaharis asserted that, as a disabled student, they knew most what needed to be changed. In order to create a space where “health comes before academics,” they wanted to destigmatize health issues. The first question of this debate asked for personal anecdotes about problems with health resources, a question for which Jaharis was easily the most equipped with stories and solutions. After the discussion, Jaharis returned to their seat, next to the student who posed the question.

The two students running for Sustainable Initiatives, Nicki Franks and Sylvie Rosen, came from backgrounds in Barnard Divest and Eco Reps, respectively. Franks asked for reserved time during NSOP to teach students how to live sustainably, and for symbiotic relationships with Harlem sustainability and justice groups. Rosen proposed a three-pronged platform whose most engaging element was a campus-wide composting initative in collaboration with a local farmers’ market. The questions brought the heat again, as a student brought forward a concern that de-political, “green” groups such as Eco Reps were problematic in their lack of explicit social justice. Rosen responded that she saw herself as an advocate of all sustainability groups, including Divest Barnard.

But these brief moments of intrigue punctuated a generally agreeable candidates’ forum. The student audience, for the most part, came for the free Pinkberry and stuck around to support their classmates. The last speaker of the night, unopposed Presidential candidate Angela Beam, spoke proudly of SGA’s revival of the Greek Games and opening of the Diana roof. At the end of the forum, voting links officially opened on myBarnard, and nominees were allowed to begin flyering around campus.

Image of the Diana Center via Bwog Staff

Edit, 2:40 pm: A previous version of this post listed Representative for Health Services candidate Valerie Jaharis with an incorrect last name. The post has since been updated to display correct information.

Edit, 8:00 pm: A previous version referred to Representative for Inclusion and Equity candidate Sandy Gooen’s speech as advocating for “non-women,” rather than for “trans and gender non conforming students.”

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1 Comment

  1. If I had known  

    I would have pretended to be Barnard for the Pinkberry

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