Meet the candidates: 2020-21 Student Association executive board

Elections to be held online Tuesday through Thursday

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Student Association elections will take place 10 a.m. Tuesday until 5 p.m. Thursday through UBLinked, according to members of the elections committee. 

While elections usually take place at a physical polling location in the Student Union, this year’s move to online voting comes after UB’s switch to a “distance-learning” model and SA’s cancellation of all other SA events.

SA plans to send a student body email before polling begins with a link to the election website, according to Omran AlBarazanchi, a member of the elections committee. Candidates will have the opportunity to post statements on the election website, according to Elections and Credentials Chair Satang Trawally. Six parties are running in the election and two independent candidates are running for treasurer. 

We compiled a list of the candidates and their plans based on remote interviews conducted throughout spring break, as candidacy wasn’t final until March 13. 

The “Change” party

Graphic by Paolo Blanchi

President: Justin Young, senior math and computer science major 

Vice president: Richard Michel, junior exercise science major 

Treasurer: None, “Change” is endorsing Viraja Bhosale for treasurer

Young said he’s “at one with the [students]” and knows of the diverse struggles different student groups face. Young said he “would not like to save anything at all” from SA’s current administration and that he wants to focus on change.

Michel was a student-volunteer at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, NY. Michel is a member of the exercise science club and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. 

Plans:

  • Eliminate “the wall” between SA and the student body and encourage student participation
  • Focus on students’ mental health and organize events to improve the mental health on campus, including organizing a “massage event” around finals week 
  • Opt for a single-concert fall and spring fest format 
  • Young will advocate for in-person elections in future years, while Michel will advocate for online voting

The “Dreem Team” party

Graphic by Paolo Blanchi

President: Ghuzlan Alhaddad, junior biological sciences major 

Vice president: Abdifatah Adan, junior history major 

Alhaddad is a co-founder and president of SA’s new Beauty and Self Care club and has worked as a volunteer through UB’s Students for Justice in Palestine. Alhaddad said hobby clubs are particularly unsatisfied with SA and she wants to figure out how to get them more funding.

Adan is a research assistant in the Jacobs School of Medicine and is also a co-founder of the Beauty and Self Care club.

Plans:

  • Promote clubs by talking to them and listening to their grievances 
  • Replicate this year’s three fall fest concerts and one spring fest concert 
  • Advocate for “bigger names” in the Distinguished Speakers Series 
  • Advocate to host a second job fair during the fall semester as well as other “networking opportunities”
  • Create more “leadership positions” on campus
  • Promote diversity by having an “open-door policy” and listening to student input
  • Promote off-campus “shadowing programs” for students
  • Have in-person voting for future SA elections

The “HERstory” party

Graphic by Paolo Blanchi

The HERstory eboard plan to increase transparency between SA and the student body and communicate to students the importance of the mandatory student activity fee

President: Adolyn Cofie, junior philosophy and political science major  

Vice president: Alyssa Palacios, junior public health major 

Treasurer: Sayan Trotman, junior sociology and biological anthropology minor

Cofie is SA’s Interim Chief of Staff and a board member of the Faculty Student Association. Cofie was the Event Coordinator for the pre-law chapter of the National Black Law Students Association and SA’s assistant entertainment director in Fall 2019. Cofie was a mentee for the entertainment department of SA during her freshman year. Cofie said her biggest goal as president would be to “fight for equitable representation among the student body.”

Palacios is SA’s entertainment director. Palacios was previously an orientation team leader and an orientation leader. Palacios said her biggest goal as vice president would be to “make sure more resources are provided to our clubs and to provide more club unity.”

HERstory is the only party that is running with a treasurer, although the treasurer vote is its own ticket. Trotman is vice president of Carribean SA and was publicity chair of Caribbean SA last year. She said she hopes to “change the way some of the departments are functioning” by adjusting their budgets and “set-ups.” Trotman said she hopes to make changes to UB’s ticket office.

HERstory said its platform consists of eight topics: SA operations, equity and inclusion, health and wellness, club services, student life, environmental and sustainability, accessibility and resources and partnerships.

Plans:

  • “Continue to enhance the student experience outside of the classroom”
  • Advocate to make the UB curriculum’s diversity requirement “more centered around students becoming more culturally competent”
  • Advocate to re-implement the UB safety shuttle to transport intoxicated students home
  • “Use SA as a resource” to educate students about financial resources, mental health resources and self-help programs at UB
  • Expand free menstrual products to all campus bathrooms and create more gender-neutral public bathrooms
  • Partner with departments like UB Athletics, the Intercultural Diversity Center, University Tickets and Blackstone LaunchPad to “advance where SA lacks in student life.”
  • Return to a single-concert fest format, which it says will save SA money that can be used for more SA events.
  • Keep clubs that are on probation for the Spring 2020 semester on probation during the Fall 2020 semester until they “reach certain requirements.”
  • Advocate to use both online and in-person voting in future SA elections.

The “Not me, UB!” party

Graphic by Paolo Blanchi

President: Hayden Gise, junior political science major 

Vice president: Nelaje Branch, junior computer science and statistics minor 

Gise is the chair of SA’s board of directors and has held an executive board position on the national, state and UB chapters of College Democrats. Gise says that if elected, they’d be the first openly transgender student government president elected in any college or university in the U.S.

Branch is president of the National Society of Black Engineers and has previously held secretary and freshman-coordinator positions in the society. She has been a teaching assistant in the computer science department for three years. Branch says she has gained “insight” through her experiences working as a sales representative at the Bulls Team Shop and her membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. 

Plans:

  • Increase funding for club coordinators “so that clubs can get the investment they need, so they can build new experiences”
  • Advocate for a single-concert, outdoor fall and spring fest format
  • Create a commision of “academic leaders” and “student advocates” from the School of Management, the African and African American Studies Program and the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering to make a plan to “feasibly and morally invest in ethical industries” and reduce the UB Foundation’s alleged investments in the “fossil fuel industry” and the “private prison system.”
  • Create a purchase-order tracking system to track deliveries on campus 
  • Prioritize accessibility by providing sign language interpreters at all large SA events and requiring all clubs to “make it known” that sign language interpreters are available upon request
  • Ensure menstrual products are available “in every bathroom on campus” by working with the Student Life, Campus Living and University Facilities
  • Promote “inclusivity” for minority students by organizing “major events” for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and LGBT History Month
  • Host transfer-student mixers
  • Bring back SA executive cabinets, which would include “prominent student leaders from different constituency groups” to meet weekly to discuss “developments on campus”
  • Allow clubs to fulfill requirements on campus, to increase club participation on campus

R.I.S.E.

Graphic by Paolo Blanchi

President: Zackary Graham, junior political science and philosophy major 

Vice president: Netra Mittal, sophomore applied mathematics major, economics minor 

Graham is on SA’s BOD, the BOD’s Club Oversight committee and its Rules, Administration and Government Oversight committee. Graham is SA’s Hobby Council coordinator, president of the United Nations SA and volunteers with the International Institute of Buffalo. Graham is a transfer student from Monroe Community College and was a president of its political science club. He is certified as a “discourse mediator” by the National Issues Forums.  

Mittal is president of Debate Society and the first international student to hold that position. Mittal founded UB’s first undergraduate book club and is a peer manager at the Leadership House and a student engagement ambassador.

Plans:

  • “R:” Raising club budgets 
    • Expand programming and community service opportunities to give clubs access to rollover money from cancelled events this semester 
  • “I:” Inclusivity and outreach
    • Reach out to student communities when making policy decisions 
    • Implement an “interest form” for incoming students
  • “S:” Student advocacy
    • “Push” the administration to invest more “in things like mental health”
    • Create “an online booking service” for mental health services
    • Advocate for the increase in counselors on campus
    • Implement a system where students can submit anonymous grievances about SA or the UB administration
    • “Encourage” Campus Dining and Shops workers to “form a strong worker union”
    • “Put pressure” on the administration and the UB Foundation to be “more financially transparent”
    • Advocate for more faculty and staff diversity
  • “E:” Environmentally conscious
    • Promote divestment events to urge the UB Foundation to “divest” from alleged fossil fuel investments within a five-year period
    • Advocate for “proper” recycling facilities in campus residencies. 
    • Promote UB’s Climate Action Plan (included in UB 2020)
    • Advocate for Campus Dining and Shops to shift away from plastic usage
  • Have a one-concert fest format
  • Increase comedy shows to “four or five” per year
  • Shift to online voting for SA elections

Voice Party

Graphic by Paolo Blanchi

President: Ming Chen Deng, junior business administration major 

Vice president: Andy Whitehead, junior psychology and health and human services major 

Deng is the vice president of the Latin American Student Association and says he’s worked closely with SA through this position which has given him “a clear understanding of the procedures and processes in SA.”

Whitehead is the coordinator for the People of Color Council and an SA BOD member. Whitehead previously served as president and vice president of the Asian American Student Union.

“Voice Party’s” slogan is “valuing ongoing, impactful change and empowerment.”

Plans:

  • “Empower students” by giving them a platform to share their opinions
  • “Pass on” student concerns to the administration
  • Educate freshmen about SA
  • Implement a one-concert fest format for the fall and spring semesters
  • Promote diversity by making the three concerts different genres and hiring international artists
  • Continue online elections in future years

Independent treasurer candidates:

Graphic by Paolo Blanchi

Viraja Bhosale, junior environmental design and architecture major

Bhosale was an assistant fundraising manager and a teacher at the non-for-profit organization “Teach for India.”

Bhosale is endorsing the “Voice Party” for president and vice president because she thinks “their agenda is clear” and “they can make the changes they are planning.” 

Plans:

  • Increase transparency about how SA can maximize its budget
  • Promote diversity and equality among SA clubs
  • Raise awareness of clubs and how SA works
  • Implement a plan to ensure students gain awareness about SA and resources available to them through UB during their freshman year
  • Make sure clubs don’t face financial problems because of this semester’s cancelled SA events and activities
  • Advocate to return to a single-concert fest format
  • Advocate to continue the online voting system

Eric Weinman, junior computer engineering, mathematics-economics and political science major

Weinman is SA’s assistant treasurer and has been on SA’s board of directors (previously the senate) for two years. He was chair of the SA senate last year. Weinman is a student director and treasurer on FSA BOD and was the treasurer and a board member of Sub-Board I before FSA replaced SBI last year. 

Weinman is the College of Arts and Sciences’ ambassador for the mathematics department and the financial manager for the SUNY Student Assembly. Weinman has been treasurer for the SA club “Association of Computing Machinery” for two years. During his freshman year, Weiman was treasurer for his dorm through the Residence Hall Association.

Weinman said if elected he will assess all club financial requests from a “neutral stance” and “make sure they’re all supported and have access to resources” and that he’d like to have more frequent club fairs.

Plans:

  • Promote financial transparency
  • Break down the SA budget on the SA website
  • Promote financial literacy and advocacy workshops for students
  • Communicate with the student body by holding open office hours and attending club and council meetings
  • Place clubs in one of “three to five” brackets which are determined by their starting budget and then modify club rollovers and fines according to their bracket
  • Increase opportunities for club volunteering and events “especially to gain money”
  • Advocate for monthly town hall meetings for e-board members
  • Advocate to ensure SA uses its delegate appointments to “represent UB as a whole”
  • Advocate to return to a single-concert fest format
  • Recommend a second comedy series in the fall semester
  • Use the excess money from cancelling this semester’s remaining SA events to “bolster” clubs and events next semester
  • Advocate to create the BOD Finance Committee in the fall semester, rather than the spring semester
  • Set up a framework where clubs can allocate money to use for “emergencies”

Julian Roberts-Grmela is a senior news editor and can be reached at julian.grmela@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @GrmelaJulian

JULIAN ROBERTS-GRMELA


Julian Roberts-Grmela is a senior news editor for The Spectrum and an English and philosophy major. His favorite book is “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith and he hopes that one day his writing will be as good as hers.