The Student Government Association (SGA) at Seton Hall University kicked off their election season on March 18 with juniors Rishi Shah and Anthony Chen running for the top job of SGA President.
Shah, a junior with a major in management and philosophy and the current SGA president, said that it was his time serving in SGA that inspired him to run for re-election this year.
“I believe that the changes we’ve made to the budget policy, creating the Diversity and Inclusion Grant Committee, implementing the SGA Presidential Cabinet and having a student voice present to the Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Regents is just a start to creating lasting changes in our community here at SHU,” he said.
He went on to say that one term is not enough to be able to see these changes through and that he wants to use his experiences “to give back to the next generation of student leaders.”
Shah went on to comment on the changes he hopes to implement if elected for a second term.
“I want to focus my attention on getting more student voices heard on campus decisions,” he said. “We achieved a major milestone during my current term by having a student representative present to the Board of Regents Student Affair committee,” adding that he hopes to continue to utilize the relationship between SGA and the Board to show how students voices are beneficial when dealing with decision making.
He went on to note that he hopes to create a new focus on improving facilities on campus, noting the small sizes of the desks in Fahy and limited parking available on campus. Shah also said that he hopes to utilize his newly commissioned cabinet to bring in student input into the process of doing so.
“Having the SGA Presidential Cabinet has been really beneficial in getting inputs from all walks of campus life,” he said.
Though talking much of changes that he hoped to usher in, Shah also plans on keeping some things within SGA the same.
“I want to keep this momentum going, during every term we have a new wave of leaders and I can proudly say that my last term had the greatest student leaders I’ve ever seen,” Shah said. “I am beyond honored to be affiliated with the many tickets under the Shah-Mabalatan platform as they are the most involved and passionate group of student leaders.”
Compared to his last election, Shah feels as though this one is not as politically driven but instead based on “true passion by students who genuinely care about our campus.”
Shah went on to laud his running mates.
“Frank Mabalatan and Elise Kerim have not had a chance to serve in an executive role in SGA, and I am excited to see them develop within their roles as VP and Secretary,” Shah said. “Divine Tanamal has done an extraordinary job in her role as Treasurer, and I am confident she will achieve even more when she is reelected.”
With the election dates closing in on April 1-2, social media campaigns have begun to kick off, as well. The Shah-Mabalatan ticket account recently posted, deleted and then reposted a unified platform with several changes on their account. The first post noted their goals as obtaining a student seat within the Board of Regents, supporting the growth of student organizations and creating a more environmentally sustainable campus. This compared with the second and seemingly final platform which states that the ticket hopes to “gain more resources to support mental health, further support diverse groups on campus through funding, have a more sustainable campus and advocate for better facilities such as larger parking spaces and desks.”
Despite the number of candidates for some positions, both those affiliated and unaffiliated with Shah’s ticket, those for the College of Communication and the Arts, the College of Education and Human Services and the College of Nursing remain vacant with candidates.
Darby Debonis, the current SGA vice president, and elections committee chair commented on some of the seats without candidates.
“Since I was a freshman, there have been vacant seats at the close of multiple elections in the College of Nursing, College of Communications and the Arts, as well as the College of Education and Health Services,” she said.
She went on to say that because of that, she is not surprised by the lack of applicants for these senatorial positions.
“I do think that the prospect of campaigning is a large commitment for any student and think that has contributed to the lack of applicants from those colleges,” Debonis said.
However, she and her team are in contact with the Deans of those three colleges to encourage students to apply and fill these vacancies.
Shah’s ticket is running mostly unopposed for a majority of the Senatorial seats, including the School of Diplomacy, College Arts and Sciences, and Stillman School of Business seats. However, Presidential candidate Anthony Chen seeks to challenge that.
Chen, a junior with a major in international relations and Asian studies, commented on why he decided to run.
“I decided to run because students are not satisfied,” Chen said. “We have seen protests on campus, and many grievances are brought to our Student Government constantly.”
Chen went on to say that often times, “student representatives may start off very strong with many promises, but ultimately in the end under-deliver due to mismanagement of time or loss of motivation.” Chen noted that students are only here for eight semesters and that it’s for that reason he is “running to provide a sense of urgency and efficiency to our organization.”
Chen also outlined the changes he hopes to implement if elected.
“The first thing is to restructure our SGA itself to be more accountable for our actions,” Chen said. “We can work closely with our Senate to make certain changes to our by-laws and constitution to which we abide by.”
He also said that transparency between SGA and students has always been a concern.
“As an Ad-Hoc and an Army veteran, I can say for certain there is a lack of transparency within the SGA at times. This halts initiatives and issues we are trying to resolve. We can draft many bills and set many goals, but it will not work without the personnel to carry it out.”
Another one of the changes he hopes to implement is to empower students.
“Although Seton Hall may promote diversity and inclusion, the real world may not be as accepting as our community,” he said. “I want to enhance our students’ soft skills or people skills to improve on communication and fine tune skills as simple as giving firm handshakes and holding eye contact.”
“Regardless of race, color, gender or sexual preference, these skills will empower students to be smarter, more assertive and dominant in whatever we decide to do,” Chen said. I plan to expand and utilize our Presidential Cabinet to do this.”
Chen also said he hopes even to attempt to reform some of the university’s “Catholic mission” centered policies.
“What this refers to is the full acceptance and inclusion of our LGBTQ community on campus, and providing contraceptives to students,” Chen said. “This may be a harder issue to win, and not many people are willing to risk their reputation with the administration to do it. As student representatives, we must set aside our own personal gains and focus on the students that put their faith in us.”
As to how he feels about this year’s election, Chen went on to say that he was disappointed with the turnout for this year’s SGA candidates.
“Students may not be too satisfied with us recently,” Chen said. “There is one large ticket of veteran SGA members and a few candidates like me. Without competition, we become complicit and unmotivated to improve. I hope I and many others can show everyone that it is not ‘their’ SGA, but the SGA of the students.”
Chen also described the process of finding running mates.
“At first I reached out to a few close friends within the SGA to run with me,” Chen said. “Sometime later I realized that it was not fair of me to pressure someone to run against their friends from within. I am running alone, and if I win this election, I look forward to working with Frank, Divine and Elise, [all of] whom I am good friends with.”
Rhania Kamel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find her on Twitter @RhaniaKamel.