Executive Slate Candidates Launch Campaigns

Initial statements touch on divestment and unionization and promise a more open SG.

By Emily Feigenbaum

Candidates for this spring’s Student Government (SG) elections were announced this past Friday. Voting, which will be conducted electronically via Blueprint, begins on May 2 at 10:00 a.m. and closes May 4 at 4:30 p.m.

The four Slates in the running this year are: United Progress for UChicago (UP), Our Campus, Unite and Support for UChicago (U&S), and the traditionally satirical Delta Upsilon-backed Moose Party.

The Executive Slate consists of three positions: president, vice president for administration, and vice president for student affairs. “They represent graduate and undergraduate concerns to the University administration, oversee organizational projects and initiatives, and are responsible for the management of the SG budget,” reads the SG website.

This year’s UP Slate is led by second-year Eric Holmberg, first-year Salma Elkhaoudi, and first-year Ph.D. student Cody Jones.

Holmberg, current College Council (CC) Chair and prospective SG president, stated that UP’s platform seeks to maximize SG support of undergraduate and graduate student life by making RSO events, end-of-quarter airport shuttle service and CC office hours more accessible. Holmberg also wants to push the University to create a socially responsible investment committee that would steer University money away from investments associated with negative social impacts.

“Our platform pushes the University to serve us and our community more equitably by creating a socially responsible investment committee and using its massive endowment to support Chicago State University (CSU), which has lost state funding. These are the values our platform is shaped around, and we look forward to sharing it with you in its entirety very soon,” he said.

Holmberg explained to The Maroon that UP’s objective in supporting CSU is to address higher education issues both in Chicago and throughout the state. Holmberg said that due to budgetary restrictions, some employees at Illinois universities are losing their jobs. He added that higher education funding will decrease by 30 percent if Governor Rauner’s proposed budget is approved.

Holmberg plans to use his position to work with #SaveCSU, reach out to student leaders throughout Illinois to address student needs and grant funding, and call on Rauner to pass a budget that gives more funding to higher education.

Elkhaoudi, current Class of 2019 representative and candidate for vice president for administration, stated that UP has a history of being at the forefront of progressive ideals and impactful decision making, ranging from neighborhood activism to University of Chicago Police Department accountability.

“One of the main reasons I am running for the position of vice president for administration on executive Slate is that over the past year, through my service on College Council and [the Student Government Finance Committee], I have noticed that funding decisions for student life are made on the basis of University reputation, rather than the enrichment of student life. To me, this is unjust and wrong,” Elkhaoudi said.

“While our campus community continues to grow in culture and diversity and ideas, the budget to finance this growth continues to be slashed and divided: we are fighting over scraps,” she added.

Jones said that there is a need for a more effective conduit for graduate student concerns. Noting that there is a sense of division between the undergraduate and graduate communities, Jones cited his collaborative efforts with Holmberg and Elkhaoudi as proof that school unity is possible. UP is the only Slate with a graduate candidate. Jones described his membership on this slate as a “natural choice,” as both Holmberg and Elkhaoudi are supporters of graduate unionization.

Our Campus is led by third-years Chase Woods, Paul Drexler, and Victoria Monteiro. Though lacking SG experience, the Slate collectively stated that every student is a part of University politics and the objective of Our Campus is to “give a voice to those who feel like they’ve been left out of University politics.”

Woods, Our Campus’ prospective president, said that “This year has been a tumultuous one for our campus, but, in many ways, it doesn’t seem new. It feels like the issues the Class of 2019 is facing are the same issues my class faced in our first and second years. I don’t want these issues to be cyclical, I want them to be addressed in meaningful and substantive ways.”

“Students should vote for our slate, because their issues are our issues. I believe we’re the slate that’s most attuned to what’s going on, what students care about, and what they’d like to see this University become. We’re not self-serving; we’re here to serve,” he added.

Monteiro, who is running for vice president for student affairs, said that students should vote for her slate because each member is involved in “almost every aspect of campus” and understands the concerns of student-run organizations. Citing a need for greater SG transparency, Monteiro stated that Our Campus will increase SG office hours and use social media to better communicate with students.

“As we’ve been working to improve our own communities on campus, we realized that Student Government has the tools and resources to address many of the issues facing student life; however, this potential has been largely untapped. We’ve been working hard to research and develop feasible solutions with a timeline that students can hold us accountable to. We have the experience, we have the drive and we’re really excited to get to work,” Monteiro said.

Second-years Michael Meng, Kennedy Green, and Sara Zubi are the candidates for the U&S Slate. The candidates are in the process of discussing tenets of the U&S platform in statements released in succession on the Slate’s Facebook page: Zubi’s statement on April 15, Meng’s on April 17, and Green’s on April 19.

U&S emphasized that it will create an agenda that it can practically execute.

U&S cited Meng’s two-year long experience as a class representative for the Class of 2018 as a navigational tool for the logistics of SG. However, the Slate said that new perspectives will be beneficial as they will foster a sense of inclusion on campus.

In last week’s CC meeting in which a resolution was passed to ask the University to divest funds from some companies active in Israel, Meng gave his speaking time to running mate Zubi. Zubi, an active supporter of the U of C Divest campaign and prospective vice president for student affairs, wrote on the Slate’s Facebook page that she was the only non-CC representative who spoke at the meeting.

“As VP of Student Affairs in conjunction with Kennedy and Michael, I plan on working towards the socially responsible investment committee. This was passed with 80 percent support from a student referendum, which will insure that our university will neither be invested nor complicit in human rights abuses. As a slate, we will be in a position to be able to sit down with administration and urge them to form this committee that has been supported by the student body and ask for transparency in investments,” Zubi wrote online.

“We have Michael guiding us through the ins and outs of the student government bureaucracy; but, all three of our voices are prominent in the decisions made by this slate, and we’d like to include whatever students want to be heard in more of these decisions,” U&S wrote in a statement to The Maroon.

“We think that our role here is to build upon progress that has been made by the previous administration. So we will divert our energy to just including more people in the process of campus governance, and to make more people feel like the University cares about their existence here,” the statement read.

In his personal statement, Meng said that his experience as a class representative and his membership in Greek life are assets to the Slate. Citing a need for an Interfraternity Council and a structure of accountability for its members, Meng said that the current policy governing Greek Life “creates rifts,” rather than support in the Greek community.

“Finally, as a member of the Greek community, I know that there are problems with our Greek organizations. But to disproportionately harm the members that contribute the least towards its problems is wrong. To say that all Greek organizations are the same, just because they stand by Greek letters, is wrong,” Meng wrote.

Complete platforms, limited to 400 words, are due on April 19 and will be posted on the SG website. The slates are scheduled to debate on April 25 for a graduate audience and April 26 for an undergraduate audience.