When ballots are sent out Oct. 9 for the class of 2021 to elect its five representatives to the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly Senate, one additional seat will open up. Sen. Abhi Chadha ’20, who was appointed to the senate in April 2017, must now campaign for his seat, following a 2016 amendment to the SA constitution.
When the senate passed the Succession Act in April 2016, former Class of 2017 President Katherine Ambrose ’17 had just appointed a new senator, and SA code at the time did not specify what procedures are to follow in the event of a resignation from senate. Following the appointment of former Sen. Olivia Camper ’17, the Succession Act was passed and guidelines were set.
Now, if a senator vacates their seat, the class president of that social class must announce applications for the seat to their entire class. Then, applications are viewed by the class president and the social class’s senators and the top candidate is appointed. During the next election cycle, the position becomes open and elections are conducted normally.
For the first time since this bill was passed it will come into effect as Chadha campaigns again for his seat. Chadha was appointed following the resignation of former Sen. Noah Ferris ’20, who resigned to become the chief of staff for SA President Elijah Levine ’18 and SA Vice President Annelise Yackow ’18.
Class of 2020 President Kelsey Vita ’20, who first announced the vacancy in the senate last April, sent out emails to the class of 2020 in September as a reminder of the upcoming election.
I’m hoping that whoever fills the open spot will be willing and ready to really immerse themselves in what we do in Student Assembly, and put in that extra effort to start new projects,” Vita said.
“I’m hoping that whoever fills the open spot will be willing and ready to really immerse themselves in what we do in Student Assembly, and put in that extra effort to start new projects,” Vita said. “I’d like to see someone who is really passionate about improving our campus and eager to bring other student organizations into what we do, thus making our process more collaborative. I hope that whoever fills the position is in touch with the current climate of campus, as I think we’re at a point right now where it’s very urgent that student representatives fully utilize the opportunities they have to shift our campus forward.”
One candidate, Ryan Walter ’20, is challenging Chadha in this fall’s race. He said he chose to run for a position in SA because he wants to bring his experience with other College activities into SA to develop new initiatives.
“I’ve been able to hear a diversity of perspectives on things we could be doing to make life even better,” Walter said in a written statement. “I’ve watched SA make bold promises about inclusivity, celebrating cultural diversity and hosting initiatives to increase student-body unity. I want to be a part of making sure those promises become realities, and I’ve come up with some of my own programming to make the class of 2020 the best one yet.”
His desire to discuss diversity shapes much of what he wants to achieve if elected to SA senate.
“SA has on many occasions promised to promote the diversity of our class and campus, yet none of those promises have come to fruition,” Walter said in a written statement. “As senator, I will sponsor initiatives for culture fairs and work to facilitate on-campus organization communication.”
SA hosts annual events such as the I AM WM Week to address diversity, and individual senators sponsor legislation that aims at promoting inclusivity, such as a bill that established the Sankofa Gala last year.
Walter said he believes he is qualified for this position because he has held leadership positions on campus, such as serving as the president of the hall council for the Outer Limits — which includes Taliaferro Hall, Reves Hall and Hunt Hall. He also co-founded the Podcasting Network and serves on WMHSMUN.
Chadha, who is running for re-election, said that if elected again, he has priorities such as helping students understand how medical amnesty works at the College and addressing Title IX’s effects on students.
He says that he is qualified to be re-elected because he is currently sponsoring legislation that would provide students with information about resources at the Student Health Center and is working on a public service initiative on medical amnesty.
The experience I have had debating legislation and getting to see its finer intricacies has been fascinating for me,” Chadha said in a written statement.
“The experience I have had debating legislation and getting to see its finer intricacies has been fascinating for me,” Chadha said in a written statement. “I have been able to serve as a member of the finance committee as secretary of the policy committee, allowing me to see how most effectively to help our class. My experience with the structures and inner workings of SA make me uniquely qualified to serve the class of 2020 and our Tribe, again.”
At the end of the day, Vita said that she hopes both candidates acknowledge what is important to the student body during their campaigns.
“I think it’s always best to talk to as many students as possible, find out what they’re most passionate about, then build a platform from there,” Vita said. “Communication is everything, and it is so important to be in touch and genuinely connect with the students you hope to represent.”
Correction: Originally, the quotes from Ryan Walter ’20 were attributed to an in-person interview. In reality, these quotes were provided in a written statement.