When members of the College of William and Mary’s class of 2019 cast their ballot for class president and four Student Assembly senators Sept. 30, they will not be the alone. The class of 2018 will be electing a new class president and the class of 2017 will be filling two senate seats.
The class of 2019 has nine presidential candidates: Jonah Yesowitz, Brian Murphy, Samyuktha Mahadevan, Aakash Saraf, Soheb Osmani, Henry Melzer, Adam Benmhend, David King and Rebecca Pilkington. Additionally, there are 14 students running to be one of four class of 2019 senators.
SA President Yohance Whitaker ’16 said he is excited for elections because they provide the SA with new ideas and new people.
“I always like that elections provide, in a sense, a lifeblood, if you will, to the Student Assembly,” Whitaker said. “It’s always great when we have all of our ranks full and when the organization really gets buzzing and humming along. I ran as a freshman, so this is always an exciting time for me, when we get to welcome freshmen in Student Assembly chosen by their peers to represent them.”
A “Meet the Candidates” event was held Sept. 23 in Spotswood Hall to give class of 2019 candidates the opportunity to introduce themselves to voters. Most candidates chose to focus on their prior experience in leadership positions and ideas for improving the SA and the College as a whole during their brief speeches. Several candidates focused on ideas like class bonding activities, open forums to discuss student ideas and resources about mental health and sexual assault, which they would like to implement during their term if elected.
“Some things that I think are definitely important for us to focus on include mental, physical and sexual health, especially with recent events that have transpired on campus,” Mahadevan said. “Another is working on diversity. Even looking at this group, you can tell that we are all very different people, and I think that allowing people to express themselves and feel very included in this school is the reason why it is special and something we should maintain, so everyone feels at home here.”
Mitch Dunlap, Laini Boyd, Madison Fox, Eric Barch, Evan DeFraine and Tanner Holland are running for the class of 2018 president position. Former class of 2018 president Jose Acuna resigned after serving as president for the spring semester last year. Acuna was re-elected during last spring’s elections with 60.5 percent of votes.
The race for the class of 2017’s two senate seats is comprised of Eudora Arthur, Presley Ashley, Arjun Nandra, TJ Soroka, Daniel Sequeira, Rohan Desai and Haruna Hamamoto. The election of one senate seat has been expected since last spring as only three candidates ran for the class’ four seats. Whitaker said he believes that the lack of competition in upperclassmen elections is due to students participating in other organizations, but he said the SA is looking to increase the competition in elections by trying to increase students’ understanding of its work.
“I think part of it is making sure that the brand of Student Assembly is strong,” Whitaker said. “I think that you have competitive elections when students can see their student government working for them. When there is buy-in that being part a student organization, you can see how it contributes not only to my time here at William and Mary and how it impacts my peers.”
The second open senate seat for the class of 2017 is the result of former senator John Yoest’s resignation during the Sept. 24 senate meeting. Last semester, Yoest appeared on the senate floor to explain multiple absences during the meetings due to his commitment to the College’s baseball practice.
Elections Commission Chair Kyle McCauley ’16 stated that he hopes that the short notice for the second class of 2017 senate vacancy does not affect voter turnout.
“I hope it doesn’t decrease turnout, and I think that the fact that the juniors have two open positions is not a good thing,” McCauley said. “I wish more people had run in the spring, but I’m hoping that we’ll get more juniors who decide to run and they’ll turn out.”