Chang, Sloane vie for student body president, participate in debate


Thursday, March 28, students of the College of William and Mary will vote for the next Student Assembly class representatives and SA president and vice president. This year, there are two candidates for the presidential position: Class of 2025 President Yannie Chang ’25 and SA Secretary of Health and Safety Terra M. Sloane ’25.

Sloane currently heads the Department of Health and Safety in SA. She has served in this position for the past year, which marks her first year of service in SA. Sloane is from Bowling Green, Ohio, and is studying government and gender, sexuality and women’s studies with a specialization in sexual violence prevention. 

Both in her position as SA Health Secretary and as president and education chair of Someone You Know, a peer-education group that focuses on sexual violence awareness and advocacy, she possesses experience in working to help create safer spaces on campus.

Chang currently serves as the class president for the class of 2025 and has participated in SA since her freshman year. She is an international relations major with a psychology minor from Fairfax, Va.

Chang speaks fondly about her time serving as class president. 

“I have met some of my favorite people in Student Assembly, and it’s an opportunity that has given me a chance to work with a lot of different students outside of Student Assembly,” she said. “A big part of what Student Assembly has been for me in senate in the last couple years is a lot about advocacy and facilitating connections for other clubs to pursue the initiatives that they’re hoping to do.”

Sloane is running for president with the goal of speaking directly with administrators about the issues that she and her constituents are most passionate about.

“I want the chance to be able to talk to administrators about some of these things that have been so close to my personal experience on campus, like sexual violence prevention is at the top of my priority list,” Sloane said. “But also, I know that other people share those passions and I want them to get that chance as well. So I would like to use the position as a way to elevate concerns that students have, and really be a vehicle for people to speak one on one with administrators about things that they’re passionate about.”

Sloane emphasizes her student-forward platform and approach to the presidential position. 

“I think that we really want to include students in that process of ‘What do they want their student governing body to be like?’; ‘What do they want to know?’; and ‘How will transparency be best accomplished?’ because I think over the past year, even some people in Student Assembly aren’t really sure what our true role is. And so I think with our administration, what we’re hoping to do is just have an entire year of as much student feedback and as much student involvement as possible to think about how Student Assembly can truly serve the student body in the best way possible,” Sloane said.

Running alongside Sloane as her running mate is SA Secretary of Diversity Initiatives Oscar Lazo ’25. Lazo is a government and Hispanic studies major from Centreville, Va.

On the pair’s campaign website, Lazo states the ticket’s goal for 2024.

“I am running for Student Assembly Vice President because I realized and have seen the power and strength of peer advocacy, the ability to do good, and the ability to change people’s lives for the better within everything I am a part of,” Lazo wrote.

If elected, Chang hopes to focus on fostering a respectful, productive environment within SA.

“Even though there are interactions that are tense, and there are dynamics that are hard to work with, the pros definitely outweigh the cons,” Chang said. “I’m just hoping to make it internally a good place for people in Student Assembly to work, and also something where students are getting their seat at the table and being able to also get that opportunity to speak on the things that they want to talk about.”

Outside of the inner workings of SA, Chang has several issues she plans to address that her constituents have expressed concern about. For example, she mentioned plans to offer assistance to students looking for off-campus housing, extending time in between classes to accommodate students with disabilities and improving assistance for international students. 

“A lot of the policies that we’re putting out are informed by student feedback. More than just the people that we’ve talked to and asked, but also because we’ve often done feedback forms on class emails and getting student feedback for different meetings as well. I like sitting in on those meetings,” Chang said.

Running alongside Chang as her running mate is SA Sen. Hashir Aqeel ’25. Aqeel is a junior from Woodbridge, Va. majoring in neuroscience. He has served as senator for the Class of 2025 for the past three years. 

On their campaign website, Aqeel listed how he envisioned his role as SA vice president.

“It is easy to claim that Student Assembly advocates for our students’ interests and concerns to the administration once a year during election season; I promise to actually do so, even when the subject matter is sensitive and speaking out can feel daunting or uncomfortable,” Aqeel wrote.

Chang and Sloane participated in a debate held by the Independent Elections Commission Monday, March 25, in the Commonwealth Auditorium. The candidates discussed a wide variety of topics, including the appointments process.

Chang responded to a question regarding what she hopes to accomplish as SA president.

“I think a strong cabinet and a strong appointment process that is unchanged by bias is definitely something that is important to setting up the next year of good work,” Chang said. “As well as the fact that from boards that have, for example, committees for dean hiring, faculty hiring, who gets funding and grants for specific awards, those are all chosen by people who are oftentimes appointed by the student body president.”

Chang elaborated on what backgrounds she would pull for her appointments from. 

“I think aside from picking people who are already within senate, what’s important is picking people who are outside of students, faculty as well. I know a lot of great leaders, [Director of Student Leadership Development Anne Arseneau ’89 MA.Ed ’92] loves to talk about leadership, ‘No Title.’ And there are so many great leaders on campus who would do a wonderful job on speaking on behalf of their community and other, intersectional areas as well,” Chang added.

Sloane listed the cornerstones of her platform: relevancy, transparency and sustainability. She also highlighted that current outreach efforts by SA, particularly emails, are not sufficient.

“I think that every student group has the right to know how our money is being spent or what we are doing,” Sloane said. “And that comes with making sure that we are publishing OBAC funding decisions and that people know the data that we’re collecting from students as well. [The Department of] Data Analytics is very new in Student Assembly, but we want to be able to utilize that department to truly be talking to students about what’s going on. I think that data should also be published for students to know so that they know what’s going on with the student environment just as much as we are.”

In terms of sustainability, Sloane said many policies and initiatives of SA can last years, and thus she would like to prioritize programs that have longevity.

“We are investing in the future of William and Mary,” Sloane said. “We are not just focused on what’s going to happen in this one year that we are student body president and vice president. We are looking forward to, ‘what are they going to need in a couple of years? What are things that we can prevent now?’ Rather than having to only be responding to what students are telling us or problems, ‘what can we prevent in this moment when we have the resources to do so?”

Sloane also acknowledged that as a white and able-bodied student on campus, she might have not faced some barriers that other students might have. As such, she said she has built her team to try to reflect different perspectives. 

For Chang, the best way to serve marginalized students is giving them a seat at the table. While she might not be able to truly understand the lived experiences of every single student, Chang said giving them a direct role in the decision-making process would help mitigate that.

Chang also said she would support returning the practice of giving funds to the Committee for Contextualization of Campus Landmarks and Iconography, which was established through SA. She also pointed out the recent renaming of Brown Hall to “Gates Hall” as a factor in this decision.

During closing remarks, Sloane thanked Chang and Aqeel for their work in SA and pointed out that SA can be seen as isolated at times.

“I know that Student Assembly can be isolatory. And I personally have not always felt like I belong here. And I don’t want anybody to feel that way. And that’s why I really want this job. And I want to emphasize that the changes that I have made on campus already are sizable, and I should be proud of them. And I still just want to continue that work through this lens,” Sloane said.

Sloane also urged students to engage with SA.

“And just a final reminder, that if Student Assembly is not supporting you, that you have every right to demand that it does, and that you have every right to be in that room making those decisions. It’s incredibly important that this is built to support you and should be supporting you. Nobody can take away the power of your advocacy even if you’re not in student assembly. Every kind of student advocacy is important. This is not the only way to do this,” Sloane said.

Chang remarked that Sloane is one of the nicest people she has ever met and that she had a lot of respect for her. She also thanked her team, her family, her grandmother, as well as students from different population groups that helped her formulate her campaign. 

However, she also pointed out things that she thought were unfair to her campaign.

“I think there has been a lot of one-sided and unnecessary toxicity in this election cycle that very much looks extremely similar to two years ago with the Conor Sokolowsky and John Cho election cycle,” Chang said. “And I really think we need to have a true moment of reflection. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that there is an overlap in actors, perpetuating the same situation because it looks extremely similar. And I want to be very clear in saying that this is not about Terra and Oscar — love them to death — but throughout this time, my campaign has focused a lot of unproportional slander and one-sided slander. And I think I’m seeing a lot of the same bureaucratic barriers that were present in the election two years ago.”

Earlier in the day, the Chang-Aqeel campaign Instagram released a post titled “In Response to the Slander,” in which they emphasized their support for access to sexual health products, including Plan B and their subsidization.

“I think if we continue to let this happen and don’t take a moment to be truly critical, we risk losing the integrity of Student Assembly and leaving behind the values of healthy competition that Student assembly and all students at William and Mary should hope to embrace,” Chang said.

Both Chang and Sloane support SR 331-005 – The Ceasefire in Palestine Resolution which the SA Senate will vote on at their meeting Tuesday, March 26.


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