By Victoria Gill-Gomez
The student body of Washington College elected their new 2020-2021 class officers this past Tuesday, Sept. 29.
Instead of the traditional in-person voting table in Hodson Commons Hall and a “Meet the Candidates” event, Student Government Association Parliamentarian and junior Kat DeSantis, with the help of her team, made amendments for a more digitally-inclusive election process.
“The biggest thing I enjoy is that I can provide students the opportunity to get involved and lead,” DeSantis said.
In her second term as parliamentarian, DeSantis leads the Constitutional Committee, which creates amendments to the SGA bylaws and constitution. The Constitutional Committee also helps her with advertising and promotional work during the election.
This year, the committee members are utilizing social media with posts, graphics, and group chats to spread the word about open positions, according to DeSantis.
“I feel like everybody on the executive board in SGA gets kind of almost unreasonably excited about these sorts of things,” senior Elizabeth Lilly, president of the SGA, said. “We are so passionate about student leadership and we just really love that [these candidates] are all there.”
In the past, candidates were required to get 50 signatures on their personal petition to run for elections. DeSantis thought that online petitions would be tedious. Instead, candidates must send her a three-minute introductory video of themselves for the committee to post on YouTube for campus viewing.
DeSantis said this differs from the traditional “Meet the Candidates” event, where students could interact with their potential representatives. She was worried that doing a meeting via Zoom would result in an unbeneficial turnout.
Even though the number of applications for class officer positions were low this year which, according to Lilly, could be due to students’ personal concerns regarding taking on too much responsibility while remote, by extending the deadline from last Monday, Sept. 21 to last Thursday, Sept. 24, DeSantis filled all of the missing positions.
Nonetheless, Lilly said she wants to encourage student involvement more now that the student body is separated for the time being.
“I think the students who are stepping up are going to be great leaders and a lot of them made very informative videos about who they are and why they are running,” DeSantis said. “I see a lot of awesome goals from them.”
These goals are designing a conjunctional semester for the student body, addressing how academics will be laid out for next semester, discussing a wide-spread concern around racial injustice, taking a stand for student voices, and ensuring there is a positive relationship between the College and Chestertown communities.
While addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion continues to be a top priority for the student body, “I think that our experience in the virtual realm is definitely producing a tonal shift with a lot of the [actions taken], just because there are different mediums from which we can communicate, and there are many more stressors that are very different from when we were on campus and in-person. And, while we may not have those same physical altercations or verbal altercations with people around racial injustice, we are still seeing that on social media,” Lilly said.
For the class officers, DeSantis said that their job is to relay these student concerns and “getting a pulse” on their class is their top priority.
According to Lilly, there are more autonomy and resources — budgetary and administrative — for student leaders who can actually carry out their goals in comparison to high school student government, which many of the candidates have experienced.
“We are your peers first and we want to support you in any way that we can…we are here to serve [students] first and nobody else,” DeSantis said.
To begin, the newly sworn in class officers will look to DeSantis for support immediately after the results of the elections are posted.
She will aid students as they transition into these roles with an orientation meeting. In the past, there has been a learning curve among students regarding how to begin progressing through their goals and learning the specific duties of their position.
These amendments, made last year, also include a greater involvement from the officers during Senate meetings.
Within the Senate, there is a Presidential Committee, where the class presidents and the SGA President discuss questions, concerns, and ideas brought up by the student body for Lilly to address with President Powell for their individual meeting.
The Class President and Secretary have the opportunity to choose what committee they sit on while the Treasurers sit on the budget committee and Vice Presidents sit on the organization committee. This is so officers can serve as senators as well and be included more into the large SGA discussion.
Class officers are required to hold one event per semester, and one event per year must include a service component. They must also host one open house per semester with a forum for students to express concerns with the College.
“The class officers are supposed to represent and advocate for [their peers], so the open house is an opportunity for [the class officers] to gather their peers’ feedback,” DeSantis said.
The SGA executive board, according to Lilly, wants to provide these class officers a more fully integrated position within the SGA and ensure that they can provide more input to the organization.
“Being able to have direct connections with younger student leaders is really exciting because you can get to think about the future years of the College and the long-term projects that we are working on, and the people who will hopefully see them come to fruition,” Lilly said.
Senator applications are always open, and anyone is welcome to join. Reach out to junior Josh Gastineau, SGA speaker of the senate, at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you are interested.