SGA President-Elect Mary Sasso ’18, Vice President-Elect Sam Mahler ’19, Secretary-Elect Colleen Sedney ’20 and Treasurer-Elect Shamar Mahon ’20 among around 45 others benefited from a record-breaking turnout this election cycle last Friday. 45.5% of Wheaton’s student body voted on Thursday and Friday, surpassing last year’s high of 33%. The national average of student body voter turnout is approximately 20%, according to the University of Iowa.
In addition, all SGA positions have been filled in the spring, a first in 17 years. “To have Wheaton students so engaged, it just makes me feel really happy,” said current SGA President Katie Elliot ’17. “It makes me excited for next year, since so many students had so much input.”
Elliot also said that since all the positions have been filled for next year, SGA “won’t start [the new semester] by catching up.” Four of the nine SGA Executive Board positions ran were contested.
Although engaging, controversy also played a part in the midst of the election cycle. In late Feb., several campaign posters had allegedly been removed and replaced with other candidate’s. “We ask that you all, the Wheaton student body, please respect each and every candidate running in this election cycle, so that we may produce the best possible representatives for our community,” said the Presidential Candidates Sasso, Hannah Zack ’17 and Graham Bunt ’18 in a collaborative Facebook post.
Speeches were held for those running for an SGA Executive Board position last Wednesday in the David Spencer Café. Sasso, later elected over Zack and Bunt, ran a three-point policy platform, as well as advocating for four other policies, and spoke via Skype from Paris. As SGA president, she plans to expand Wheaton’s skill-building programs, develop a student-led curriculum in conjunction with the Strategic Plan and streamline the party registration process. The direction these will be taken will depend on student input, according to Sasso.
Sasso developed her plans were developed on three main goals: if the Wheaton administration would be willing to work with SGA on them, if the plan can be accomplished within two semesters and that each plan has a direct impact on student life. “I want to enact real, achievable improvements that will make a noticeable and positive impact on everyday life for Wheaton students,” she said during her speech. “…But I am not here to waste your time. Policy is slow, policy is not sexy.”
Sasso’s position as president will be her first within the SGA Board at Wheaton. “I think Mary not being in SGA, it’s gonna take her some time to get the institutional knowledge she needs,” said Elliot. “But at the same time it’s really important to have a fresh perspective and to keep things new.”
Other elected SGA representatives also proposed policy. Mahon proposed an increase in access to feminine products such as pads and tampons around campus. As current president for the class of 2020, he has met with President Dennis Hanno, who agreed to install two new dispensers around campus, one in Emerson Dining. “Access to pads and tampons is not an amenity, it is a necessity,” Mahon said. He also proposes to increase funding for club activities and for individuals outside of clubs who wish to peruse self-initiated projects and programs.
Although he has held a position in student government for eight years, this will be Mahon’s first treasury position. He will be in charge of allocating $400,000 amongst the SGA Board and various funding requests. “The one thing that my time in student governance has taught me, when it comes to money, few decisions are easy,” he said.
According to Hanno, current student involvement proves to be on the upswing for next year. “It’s great to see so many students interested in playing a key role in student government,” he said. “I’m optimistic about next year; I heard a lot of good ideas floating around”
Other executive positions include Intercultural Board Chair-Elect Olivia Benissan ’19, Education Council Chair Nicholas Wilbur ’19, Student Alumnae/I Council Chair-Elect Daniela Peña ’18, Programming Council Chair-Elect Jasmine Silva-Jones ’18, Hearing Board Chair-Elect Sammy Zaidi ’18 and Hearing Board Vice Chair-Elect Victoria Renner ’18. Class council presidents include Akrofi Akotiah ’18, Lily Ongkiko ’19 and Emma Anne Fahle ’20.
“[SGA representatives] are the voice of the students, and that requires them to really have two parts of that dialogue,” Hanno said, “One to be deeply ingrained in what’s going on and the second to be listening and interpreting and prioritizing issues, and being able to communicate them to the administration.”