Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer
VCU students can vote for their Student Government Association representatives on the organization’s election page until Friday, June 26 at midnight. Voters can choose candidates for student body president, vice president and undergraduate senators.
The election process was delayed by three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The SGA election was originally scheduled for March 18-20 but instead took place from June 24-26.
Taylor Maloney and Laith Samamreh are the two candidates for SGA president.
Maloney was the former SGA chief of staff. The senior says she is running on a platform of “accountability and horizontal leadership.”
“I want to work with orgs and other student leaders, not serving to be their ‘voice’ but amplifying all of our voices collectively,” said Maloney, a political science major.
Maloney said her top priority as president would be for the university to defund VCU Police by cutting financial support and resources from the department until it can be abolished. She plans to work with student organizations, such as VCU Student Power, to do so.
She said defunding VCUPD would allow the university to reallocate more money toward student organizations.
“We need a higher student activity fee, to increase the pot we could allocate towards student orgs,” Maloney said. “Doubling the fee would only increase it from 45 to 90 dollars. VCU has no problem raising other fees that don’t make even close to the impact the Student Activity Fee makes.”
Samamreh was president of the Residence Housing Association during the 2020 spring semester and worked as a student representative and subcommittee leader on the university’s COVID-19 response team. He says his experiences at the university will help him as student body president.
“These experiences have given me an outside lens, which I feel is what SGA needs,” the psychology major said.
Samamreh said he believes VCU’s budget needs to be increased in order to put more money toward student clubs and organizations. In the meantime, he plans to host seminars once or twice a semester to teach students how to start, maintain and fund organizations.
According to Samamreh, the first issue he would tackle as president is the culture of the SGA itself.
“I wholeheartedly believe that we can’t effectively help others if we ourselves don’t have a strong foundation first,” the junior said. “SGA is going through a phase of transition, and this past year especially, things escalated in a way I don’t think anyone is proud or fond of.”
In February, several SGA members were seen removing copies of The Commonwealth Times from newsstands on campus following the publication of an article that detailed accusations from SGA members of a “toxic” and “hostile” environment within the organization.
Samamreh said that while he was president at RHA, attendance at their events “virtually doubled” from the previous year. He hopes to promote this type of engagement with the SGA.
The unopposed candidate for Vice President of undergraduate students is Alexander Chong. His campaign statement says that he will “push more inclusivity and diversity towards the campus.”
“I am here to make sure your words are heard,” Chong wrote in his statement.
There are 15 candidates for the SGA’s Undergraduate Senate. Here are their names and campaign statements. For more information on candidates, visit the SGA’s Instagram.
- “It is with great pleasure that I announce I am running for re-election as a Senator. This past semester, I successfully brought forth and passed legislation to lobby at the General Assembly, such as DACA recipients receiving in-state tuition, ratifying the ERA, and automatic voter registration.”
- “I am running for the position of senator because through my 2 years of experience with VCU SGA I have gained first-hand knowledge and understanding of how to successfully create change that benefits the student body. I hope to continue this for my senior year. I hope to serve the student body through this position by reflecting the opinions and voices of students as I interact and engage with the universities administration.”
- “Being of a minority, it is important that my voice is heard and I am well represented. So, as your senator, I will make sure those underrepresented have a voice. I hope to make our community welcoming and inclusive to all.”
- “Hi my name is Josh Hartt. I am currently a freshman at VCU and I am studying political science. I am running for SGA because I want to be a driving force to make SGA more organized and better represent the interests of students like you. My goals are to help keep the cost of attending VCU low, help the organization run more efficiently, and most of all promote, diversity of thought on campus.”
- “I am running for senator position because I want to amplify the voices of those who can’t be heard in higher places of power.”
- “If I am selected, I would like to offer more support for diversity and inclusion in organizations and events around campus.”
- “One main position as Senator that I would like to focus on is environmental issues within the VCU community and how we can promote sustainability among faculty and students more. … Another issue I feel that would be of practical use to focus on is food waste and how as a community we could learn ways to cut back or properly donate leftovers to the many unfortunate housing insecure persons of Richmond.“
- “I believe the duties of collegiate student governments should be focused around making the lives of students better. The SGA should be a voice that acts as an intermediary between students and VCU management. I will strive to make sure that important issues are dealt with in a professional manner.”
- “I want to be a Senator for the VCU SGA because I want to advocate for students and the issues they are facing on campus. I believe that every student’s voice should be heard and I will work to make sure that everyone is represented.”
- “I am running for the Senator position, because I feel that I am a good candidate that can advocate on the behalf of the student body. I feel passionate about making our school a better place for all students, and I believe that this position would further allow me to make change on campus.”
- “Being a Senator for VCU for almost two years now, I have learned how to advocate for the student body. I hope that I can continue my advocacy for another term in order to help improve our University and Commonwealth.”
- “We’re running this campaign to bring much needed, revolutionary change for the VCU Student Body. There are a lot of disparities, dysfunction, disregard, and apathy on campus that adversely affects us as students- together we will start a movement to overcome that. For more information, please visit: udhanth.com/issues.”
- “I am running for reelection because I believe I accurately represent voices of students. I would like to continue doing this. I believe that in SGA I am someone who believes that in my position I will stand up for the things that I believe in. I will represent those who need a voice and want to be heard. As senator I will be respectful, passionate and communicative. I also will be someone who voices the students’ concerns. This is why I am running for reelection.”
- “I would like to be re-elected as a Student Government Association Senator to advocate for our diverse university population, work with school administration to enhance the social well-being and interest for all students, and promote equal opportunities for everyone at Virginia Commonwealth University.”
- “As a previous SGA Senator I am running for reelection for the same position. I plan to continue to represent students by being their voice and pursue their concerns to make a better community here at VCU.”