Student Assembly election reveals deeper problems at College


Crystal Wang ’25 is an English major and history major. In addition to being Copy Chief for The Flat Hat, she is part of William & Mary archery. Contact her at

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own. 

I must preface this article with reassurance so I’m not flamed. This article is not meant to be a personal attack towards Oscar Lazo or Terra Sloane; I’m sure they are very nice people and will do what they think is best in their positions. This article is also not to call every person who voted for them racist. If the things I say in this article don’t apply to you, then it’s not about you.

HOWEVER. I must say I am disappointed, saddened and downright angry at Yannie Chang’s and Hashir Aqeel’s loss. I am not angry at Lazo or Sloane (once again, I’m sure they’re great people); rather, I’m disappointed with this school and its student body. This election has made it abundantly clear that this school and its students are, in fact, incredibly white and will follow the trend of white liberalism.

Let’s first take a look at the endorsements. Those that endorsed Chang and Aqeel included the Committee for Contextualization of Campus Landmarks and Iconography, Student Accessibility and Disability Alliance and almost every multicultural organization on this campus. There is a pattern with these endorsements. They all come from those trying to undo the College of William and Mary’s racist history or advocate for and make a space for marginalized people. Now to speak on the elephant in the room: Almost every MCO endorsed one campaign. Let me repeat: Almost. Every. Single. Multicultural. Organization. Anyone who knows anything about the discourse surrounding people of color knows that (because we are not a monolith) we rarely agree with each other on anything. Thus, it is even more momentous that almost all of the MCOs on campus came together to support one campaign. Also remember that MCOs don’t normally publicly endorse candidates. Now, I don’t want to completely play into identity politics. But when the organizations made by and made for marginalized people all come out to publicly endorse a candidate, that should tell you something. And doesn’t it say so much about this school that the candidates endorsed by marginalized groups’ organizations lost the highest seat of student power? That this campaign did not win a majority? And doesn’t it say something that the opinions of marginalized groups were not taken seriously enough for their endorsement to win the election?

In order to be fair, the endorsements of both candidates should be looked at. The Veggie Society, Shakespeare in the Dark, Someone You Know SYK, Vox, The Stairwells, William and Mary Choir, Acapella Council, Tribetones and members of the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council came together to endorse one party. There is also a pattern with these organizations: overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly recreational, overwhelmingly not pushing back against the College administration and overwhelmingly focused on the issues that white liberals are comfortable talking about. I’m not saying that Vox and SYK are focusing on white people issues, but rather that they are tackling issues that white liberals are comfortable tackling. I’m also not arguing that Sloane and Lazo will agree with or adhere to all of the implications of their endorsements. Once again, I’m NOT saying Sloane and Lazo will have white policies that don’t challenge the school on anything. But isn’t it so telling that the candidates these organizations endorsed won the plurality at this school? Isn’t it telling that the majority of the student body either voted for — or didn’t care enough to vote against — the campaign endorsed by organizations who don’t challenge white liberal comfort?

The biggest issue that I’m upset about, however, is the referendum. Bear with me, because this is about to get into uncomfortable territory. The referendum to divest from funding Israel’s genocide (if you must call it a war, call it a war of attrition) of Palestine passed with resounding numbers. Only 27% of voters were opposed to this referendum. This is a very, very clear representation of what the student body wants. However, isn’t it so ironic that this referendum passed, but the people who have worked the hardest to get to this referendum did not win the presidential seat? Let me give you some more facts. Aqeel and Hazel Vineet (the Chang-Aqeel campaign manager) were the ones who introduced a bill for a ceasefire resolution in Student Assembly March 5, 2024. They pushed for voting on the resolution in the senate sessions after. Chang spoke out in support of this resolution, defending it when questioned March 26. This presidential campaign wasn’t just in support of the Palestinian cause, it was actively challenging the status quo to support the most vulnerable. And isn’t it oh so ironic that these people lost when the referendum passed? The results of the elections clearly say “fine, fine, we will give you this one thing. But no more.” It follows a historical trend of white liberalism: one step forward, only to destroy the systems that allowed this step to be taken. It adheres to the trend of progress followed by reactionary punishment. It follows the trend of allowing space for the oppressed and marginalized, as long as it doesn’t reach a high enough level of power where it threatens whiteness. 

Though this election seems small, it is such a clear example of a historic pattern. Think: the first Black U.S. President was immediately followed by Donald Trump and massive efforts to disenfranchise marginalized people. Think: white America supported Martin Luther King but not the more leftist Malcolm X. Think: Reconstruction was immediately followed by Jim Crow. Time and time again, we took one step forward and found the door was immediately shut behind us. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling most students at this school racist. In fact, I’m sure most people just voted for who they know and who their organizations endorsed. But that itself is a problem. Student Assembly meeting minutes are available online as pdf documents on a Google Drive; it takes three seconds to look them up and the “control-F” feature is a helpful tool. But rather than looking up the actions of candidates, people likely voted based on familiarity and organizational endorsement. This became an even bigger problem when endorsement was so split between organizations within able-bodied, white, liberal American spaces and those so clearly outside of it. Even if people didn’t want to read through SA meeting minutes (I get it, they can be dry), half a perusal of each campaign’s Instagram and the personnel on each team tells so much. Take a look for yourself and come to your own decision on which team has the biggest names in student advocacy and the movement for people of color. “But it’s just a student government election, I didn’t think too deeply about it,” you say. To that, I respond: How nice it must be to have the privilege of not worrying about where the College’s student funding and endorsements are going. The crux of the issue is this: comfortability and familiarity. How many voted one way because their Greek Life organization told them to, without questioning whether they should injudiciously follow the advice (no matter how well intentioned) of an institution that still has ties to exclusion and oppression? These organizations are not inherently racist, but let’s not pretend there aren’t unconscious biases that make its leadership less aware of some issues. How many voted just because they were more familiar with a candidate and didn’t tune into the marginalized voices around them?

In light of Katherine Rowe’s recent statement, electing to the highest seat of student power those who have already been vocal in their solidarity with the most marginalized students should have been imperative. To paraphrase Rowe’s statement, she basically said: We won’t be adhering to the referendum that the majority of students voted for. When faced with an institution that has made it so clear where it aligns, I have to say I’m disappointed in how this student body voted. And of course, you could make the argument that neither Sloane nor Lazo have had the power to make public legislation, so we don’t know what position they will take. But that’s just my point. The majority of the student body would rather take a chance on those who might publicly fight back than those who have visibly gone toe-to-toe against the system on huge issues to support marginalized students. This election has made it abundantly clear that when push comes to shove, the voices of disabled students, low-income students and students of color will never be loud enough to outshine white liberal comfortability.

Once again, this article is not meant to be an attack on Sloane or Lazo, and I genuinely hope they do a good job. Thus, I offer advice that you can take if you want: publicly disagree with the institution in big ways, ruffle feathers. It is not just your job to represent the majority but rather to go against it when you need to protect the most vulnerable students. Think about the legacy you will leave this school; will you be just another name in this school’s long history or will you try to institute real change? I made the claim that this election was a mark of white liberal comfortability. I ask that you prove me wrong. 

And here is my advice to the rest of the College community. Think about why you voted the way you did. Think about what you didn’t consider in your vote. And listen to the voices of marginalized people when basically all of them are asking you to do something.