Students Elect SGA President, CC Co-Chairs

By Kyle Naughton, Senior Writer

The spring elections for the Student Government Association (SGA) were held on April 19, appointing a multitude of new representatives who will serve in the Senate next year.

Jin Sohn ’18 was elected as the new President of SGA, while the Co-Chair of Community Council will be Kyle Wright ’19.5 during the Fall semester and Tina Brook ’18 during the Spring. Maryam Mahboob ’18 and Hannah Pustejovsky ’18 were elected as Senior Senators while Varsha Vijayakumar ’20 and Jack Goldfield ’20 will both serve as Sophomore Senators. The Juniors senators will be Kailash Pandey ’19 for both terms, Elizabeth Warfel ’19 in the Fall, and Violet Low-Beinart ’19 in the Spring.

In terms of commons senators, John Gosselin ’20 will be the Atwater Senator, Tori Koontz ’20 will be the Brainerd Senator, Connor McCormick ’18 will represent Cook Commons, Stephanie Andrews ’18 will represent Ross Commons, and Andrew Salas ‘20 will be the Wonnacott Senator.

According to the Chair of the Elections Council, William Weightman ‘17, voter turnout for senate races this year was not significantly different from past elections, remaining at around 25-35 percent. However, this years’ elections have been much more contested than previous races.

“Last year, all commons senate seats and the junior fall senate seats were uncontested,” Weightman said. “This year only Wonnacott Commons and the Sophomore senate races were uncontested. This is a big improvement and gives students options in terms of being able to elect candidates that best represent their interests and concerns.”

Weightman identified campaign controversy and competitiveness to be a crucial component for determining a given election’s voter turnout. While this year’s presidential election saw voter turnout decrease by nearly 22 percent, the competitive environment surrounding the Co-Chair election saw an increase in voter turnout of 11 percent.

“One of the most important determinants of voter turnout is the competitiveness of the races,” Weightman said. “As such, I think the primary goal of the Elections Council to increase voter turnout going forward is to ensure that all races are contested and that we continue to have elections that are transparent, professional, and accessible to all [students].”

Sohn, who currently serves as the SGA’s Chief of Staff, feels particularly excited to serve as SGA President next year. “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have ran for SGA President,” Sohn said. “For me, this [campaign] was another great opportunity to engage with the larger [Middlebury] community, specifically to speak with and listen to students on our campus.”

Sohn hopes to address many of the student body’s concerns during her upcoming term as president, specifying the need to facilitate constructive conversations between varying perspectives. She also hopes to improve administrative accountability and transparency while streamlining the SGA’s inclusivity and accessibility.

“One [topic] that has come up in multiple conversations is the need for more perspective,” Sohn said. “I believe there needs to be more initiatives that [provide] the institutional weight and support for students’ voices to be heard and create opportunities for students to collaborate with the administration, campus staff, and each other.”

Wright shared Sohn’s optimism for his upcoming term as Co-Chair of Community Council. He feels that the student body has successfully elected capable representatives who have the general needs of the community in mind. While campaigning, Wright made a conscious effort to prioritize his platform and discussions with individuals over a social media presence.

“I have never run my campaigns with an emphasis on fostering or social media advertising,” Wright said. “I have instead focused on connecting with individual members of our community and organizations to develop highly comprehensive platforms that are grounded in the lived experiences of students, faculty, and staff.”

Wright has also stressed the need to improve communication on Middlebury’s campus, citing the lack of communicative interconnectedness between students, administrative departments, and faculty as both a barrier to defining and protecting inclusivity.

“In my experience as Res life staff and as an SGA senator,” Wright said, “I find communication on our campus to be very siloed. This lack of interconnectedness isn’t just a barrier to inclusivity, it’s a barrier to discussing what terms like that even mean for our community.”

Looking forward, Wright hopes to enforce the position of Community Council as the central forum for all non-academic issues on campus. Additionally, he intends to unify ties between administrative bodies such as MCAB, ICC, Faculty Council, and the SGA to eliminate any potential redundancies and streamline constructive conversations. At the center of his platform, Wright has prioritized the incorporation of “coalition resistance” within Middlebury.

“Coalition resilience acknowledges that challenging conversations do not occur in a vacuum,” Wright said. “[It] is a departure from rhetoric and confrontational free speech as the primary modes of community building and instead leans towards micro-conversation and critical self-reflection. As the Co-Chair elect, I am striving to create prototypical spaces such as these right now, and I hope that the Middlebury community will continue to join me in these efforts.”

Tina Brook ’18 felt particularly proud of her election, as the originally uncontested position ended up becoming particularly competitive. Brook won the race with 39.26 percent of the vote, slightly above Charles Rainey ’19’s 37.87 percent and Jack Carew ‘20’s 22.86 percent. Due to the contested nature of her campaign, Brook felt compelled to abandon her previously relaxed style of campaigning to reach more students and remain vocal about her candidacy.

“I am thrilled with the results, but do not in any way think that it was an easy win,” Brook said. “The margin between myself and the runner-up was quite small, which is a testament to how widely recognized the issues mentioned in both our platforms were, and how important it is moving forward to engage with those ideals too.”

Similar to Wright, Brook has specified that her main focus as Co-Chair of Community Council will be the improvement of communication on Middlebury’s campus to achieve higher levels of inclusion and student engagement.

“I know that Kyle’s focus will revolve around accessibility and inclusion across all identities,” Brook said. “My hope is to continue on with the work that he starts in the Spring in a similar fashion. How I intend on addressing concerns of communication is to immediately implement spaces of discussion, be that digital or physical [outlets] for students to voice their concerns and be heard.”