Party of one: Melissa Kathan runs unopposed for UB Council student representative
Melissa Kathan is no stranger to student representation.
The junior legal studies major has served as the Student Association Assembly Speaker for two years and was recently elected SUNY Student Assembly vice president for next year.
Now she wants to “be the voice for students” in meetings with some of UB’s most powerful decision makers.
Kathan is running unopposed for UB Council student representative this week. Kathan said she is the best candidate and wouldn’t run if she felt that someone else was more qualified or could serve the students better.
“This position is perfect for me because I’ve already been representing the undergraduates here at UB and the 450,000 students state-wide,” Kathan said.
The UB Council serves as the primary oversight and advisory body to UB and its president and senior officers. One student is elected every year to sit on the council and advocate on behalf of the student body. The student representative election is held online and began Tuesday morning and closes Thursday. The official results will be available Monday.
Most UB Council student representative elections offer multiple candidates vying for the position. In last year’s election, former UB Council student representative Daniel Ovadia was accused of overstepping his boundaries by changing his Facebook cover photo to the campaign poster for Minahil Khan, who was running for the position.
Khan won the election for UB Council student representative, but the University Council Elections Committee voided the results, citing inappropriate use of power by Ovadia and a leak of the election results. The election was re-held in May and Khan won again. She was just recently elected SA president for next year.
This year’s UB Council student representative election is the second major student-wide unopposed election this year. Last week the Unity Party was elected to the SA executive board without facing an opponent.
Kathan said her biggest concern when she found out she was running unopposed was that there isn’t enough student involvement at UB.
“To have this election and the UB SA undergrad election be unopposed, it makes me question how we can get more students to want to take on these positions so that we don’t see any more unopposed elections,” Kathan said.
Despite a lack of opposing candidates, Kathan said she is prepared for the position.
Kathan’s involvement with SUNY SA, UB College Democrats and the SA Assembly has given her the experience she needs to be the student representative, she said.
Kathan joined the SA Assembly as a freshman and has been the speaker the past two years. She was appointed the associate director of government relations for SUNY SA at the beginning of this academic year. She is also the secretary for College Democrats.
Laura Mannara, a junior economics and political science major and president of College Democrats, said Kathan’s dedication and professionalism at such a young age makes her a good candidate.
“Melissa has the passion for helping students and making sure student voices are heard,” Mannara said. “The initiatives that she’s taken, such as making sure textbooks are fairly priced, has also shown me that.”
Kathan helped construct SUNY SA’s legislative agenda, which focused in part on textbook affordability.
Kathan hopes to continue seeking student input on SUNY’s rational tuition plan. The plan limits the amount SUNY schools can raise tuition annually and expires at the end of next year. She said she wants more students to understand that tuition control should stay within the Board of Trustees and not in the hands of the state.
Some of the regular duties of the UB Council are reviewing all major plans and activities of the university in the areas of academics, student life, finances, buildings and grounds, as well as making recommendations and regulations for the benefit of the university in matters of community and alumni relations, according to the UB Council's website.
James Corra, a sophomore economics and English major and member of the Rules Committee for SA Assembly, said Kathan is qualified to fulfill the duties of a student representative.
“In the two years that Melissa has acted as speaker, she has transformed Assembly into a much more efficient, legitimate organization than it previously was,” Corra said in an email. “Representing all of us on [UB] Council would be a natural fit for her.”
Corra said Melissa running unopposed is a “demonstration of her initiative” since she is the only person who chose to run out of the thousands of undergraduates who attend UB.
Kathan said she understands that it is a difficult task representing the 30,000 students at UB but she is excited and feels more than prepared for the job.
Gabriela Julia is the senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org