By Alek Lewis and Maya Brown
The candidates for the Executive Council of Stony Brook University’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) debated their platforms on March 26.
USG elections started on SBEngaged on March 29 and will be held until April 2 at noon. Candidates are elected by a simple majority.
USG controls the funds of sponsored student clubs and organizations on campus, which are mostly funded by the student activity fee. It also represents the undergraduate population at the university and hosts its own events as a part of student life. USG is composed of two branches of student-elected representatives, elected to either the Senate or the Executive Council.
The Senate is composed of 23 senators-at-large, who are elected by students in the undergraduate student body. There is also a senator representing the Residence Hall Association and a senator representing the Commuter Student Association. Twenty-five students are running for at-large senate positions.
The Executive Council acts as the primary liaison between the undergraduate student body and university administration. They also hire and maintain a non-elected professional staff and operate as non-voting members of the USG Senate.
The Adapt, Create and Empower (A.C.E.) party is the only party running in this election. Some of its initiatives include creating permanent mental health programs for students, advocating for resource equity, strengthening USG’s relationship with the campus community and advocating for better food services on campus. The party has six students running for the executive council and 21 students running for senate, none for president.
This year on the ballot is the option to make USG a corporation. This, according to USG, would help the organization get better legal protections from potential lawsuits due to incidents at club events.
An amendment to the USG constitution is also up for vote. The amendment would require that candidates for elected positions maintain a certain academic standing and require them to be removed if the academic requirements are not met during their time in office.
Here are the candidates for the Executive Council and their platforms.
The president is the chief executive of USG and is responsible for USG’s strategic initiatives. They are also chair of the executive council and have the power to veto any operations or budgetary decisions approved by the Senate.
Manjot Singh, a junior civil engineering major and political science minor, is currently a senator representing the Residence Hall Association.
He wants to increase communication between USG and campus administration, including instances of social and racial injustice that may occur on campus. He says that it is USG’s duty to ensure that students feel comfortable on campus. He also wants to increase the accessibility of mental health resources for students, including Counciling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO) and the Title IX office. He says that if he is elected, his first priority will be conducting research into how the Title IX office at Stony Brook handles incidents. After receiving information about how Title IX handles incidents and delegates consequences or punishments, he wants to better inform students about Title IX and other mental health resources available on campus, starting at freshman orientation.
One of his main initiatives is to make the club and organization process more efficient by cutting down the allocation process and putting the student activity fee to better use.
Singh is running unopposed.
Executive Vice President
The executive vice president is the coordinator of the executive branch and maintains all records and correspondence of the Senate. They assume the duties of the president in their absence or resignation.
Victoria Sarita, a junior psychology major and women’s study minor, is currently a USG senator-at-large. She is a facilities assistant for the Undergraduate College Center, the program coordinator for the university’s NAACP chapter and an athletics tutor. As a senator she has worked towards mental health initiatives, citing her work this semester on boosting the platform of the university’s CAPS and CPO.
She wants to use her experience as a senator to help incoming senators have a greater impact on USG, especially when it comes to mental health programs and expansions. She also wants to create a mentoring program for minority students. She is running with the A.C.E Party.
Sarita is running unopposed.
Vice President of Communications
The vice president of communications is the public relations manager for USG. They control USG’s media services and platforms and information coming out of USG.
Sowad Ocean Karim, a sophomore biology and political science double major, is currently a senator-at-large in the USG Senate. He said he wants to increase transparency between USG and students with monthly town halls and briefings, introduce new advisory councils for more direct communication between USG and students, continue the expansion of mental health resources and create more mental health awareness events, advance Title IX initiatives, increase accessibility and awareness of SBU’s resources to students and continue to promote student life and student engagement.
He says that he has gained communication skills as the membership outreach chair of the College Democrats and the public relations chair of CAT network. He said he has also helped political candidates with their social media outreach. Kareem says that he wants to see USG expand their communications and outreach with more YouTube videos.
Karim is running unopposed.
Vice President of Academic Affairs
The vice president of academic affairs is USG’s liaison to faculty members and in the faculty University Senate. They are also USG’s coordinator for the university’s undergraduate academic policies and services.
Willie Bedoya, a mechanical engineering major and philosophy minor, is a USG senator-at -large who serves on the academic affairs committee. He is also vice president of the bowling club.
He says that he wants to increase the number of online courses available in the winter and summer sessions, increase the number of undergraduate teaching assistants, work to expand the Grade Pass/No Credit option to more courses and expand and advocate for Stony Brook’s humanities programs. He also wants to work on improving the course evaluations to include the course syllabi, new questions based on student recommendations and setting a designated class time to fill the evaluation. He is running with the A.C.E Party.
Bedoya is running unopposed.
Vice President of Student Life, Programming and Activities
The vice president of student life, programming and activities is USG’s chief programming officer and addresses issues related to student life and activities.They also chair the USG Student Activities Board, which is responsible for planning and hosting large on-campus events like Roth Regatta and Back to the Brook.
Christopher Jean, a sophomore biology major, is currently the executive vice president assistant and a receptionist for USG. He is also on the Student Life Committee of the University Senate.
He says that he wants to implement mental health screenings for students to increase mental health awareness and initiatives. One of his initiatives is a plan to introduce cultural nights or weeks to share cultures while bringing awareness to cultural issues. In terms of increasing student life during the pandemic, he says he wants to collaborate with diverse clubs and organizations and bring their groups together to increase unity on campus. He is running with the A.C.E Party.
Jean is running unopposed.
Vice President of Clubs and Organizations
The vice president of clubs and organizations is USG’s liaison to student clubs, organizations and entities funded by USG in the university.
Thaliyah Fraser, a junior marine vertebrate biology major, is a USG senator and student manager for the undergraduate colleges on campus. She is also operations coordinator for Camp Kesem and a member of the Dean of Students Advisory Council.
Fraser says that helping with the Spring 2020 budget was one of the first official activities she did with the organization, which also made her learn more about all of the clubs and organizations on campus. She is running with the A.C.E Party.
One of her main initiatives is to develop a buddy system, in which larger clubs and organizations would share experiences with smaller ones. She says this will help smaller clubs and organizations better understand how to accomplish their goals. She also wants to help clubs and organizations reach out to a wider pool of students through social media engagement, ensure that they have all of the documentation that is necessary and provide more trainings.
Fraser is running unopposed.
The treasurer is USG’s chief financial officer and is responsible for the funds and budget of the USG.
Lamisa Musarat has been a USG assistant treasurer for the past two years. She wants to increase transparency and communication between the treasury and student clubs and organizations by establishing a Google form where students can give feedback and suggestions on how the department can improve. She wants to also have workshops with campus organizations that go over financial rules and apply for different sources of USG funding.
She also said that the treasury department can help clubs plan large events. She is also committed to providing free organic and biodegradable menstrual hygiene products in campus bathrooms. Additionally, she wants to help establish an international festival that celebrates cultural diversity on campus.
Pujan Patel, a junior applied mathematics and statistics and business management double major, is currently a USG senator and a resident assistant at Benedict College. He is also an orientation leader and a client support technician with DoIT. He wants to include more students in the planning of large campus events and focus on accessibility, communication and transparency. He also wants to implement a platform in which students and clubs can anonymously send their concerns and feedback. He is running with the A.C.E. Party.