By Riley Dauber
The Black Student Union of Washington College recently elected a new executive board for the upcoming school year, announced via email by outgoing president senior Mariama Keita on April 3.
The new executive board will be composed of Elm staff writer junior Jude Souazoube as president, junior Nicole Chimezie as vice president, Elm staff writer junior Ketia Kamali as treasurer, junior Hailey Sutton returning as secretary, sophomore Asia Elliott as social chair, and sophomore Olivia Daniels as service chair.
The role of historian is currently vacant. According to Souazoube, the historian helps keep track of the club’s meetings and events for future members to refer to. The newly elected board will look to fill this position in the upcoming months.
Like many other clubs on campus, only students who had a previous position on the executive board could run for president, an application based on prior experience, interest in the position, and future plans for BSU.
Anyone interested in the other executive board positions could submit applications. According to Elliott, the online application for the other positions consisted of two questions: why they were applying for the position, and what they would bring to it.
On March 23, BSU hosted a Meet the Candidates night in the Egg, where each student could answer questions and discuss their platform and ideas for the club. Voting took place in person on March 30, and was monitored by former BSU president senior Jonah Nicholson, club advisor Lisa Moody, and Director of Intercultural Affairs Stephanie Gilmore.
Sutton, who will be starting her second year as secretary for BSU, likes that the position gives her an opportunity to hear everyone’s ideas and concerns.
“I really like making sure everyone’s voices [are] heard. I know that whenever I take the minutes everybody will understand [where] another person is coming from,” Sutton said.
Souazoube was encouraged to apply for his original position of historian by other members of BSU.
“I wasn’t as active in BSU until becoming historian. [Nicholson] and [Keita] reached out to me and were like, ‘We think you would do really well in this position.’ So becoming historian was actually what increased my involvement in BSU,” Souazoube said.
When it came time to apply this year, Souazoube looked to his experience as president of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on campus.
“I love…creating spaces where other people can become leaders,” Souazoube said. “I want to see our chapter grow and [have] Black students come in and feel equipped to lead [in] whatever capacity they want to lead.”
As for Kamali, she initially joined BSU because of her friends’ involvement, and was interested in the treasurer position to learn budgeting skills.
“I’m working at the business office currently, and I’m trying to get more into the business world since I’m a STEM major. It’s just good to have [those] skills and everything,” Kamali said.
Elliott, however, has been an active member of BSU since she first started attending WC.
“I felt that the BSU would be my safe space for me to just be myself in my blackness…BSU has just been a second home for me on campus,” Elliott said. “I love everything they’ve done, and I wanted to be involved in that process.”
Elliott’s prior experience includes running the social media account for the Department of Theatre and Dance.
The BSU position “is a good first stepping stone into the whole world of the executive board,” Elliot said.
Elliott hopes to improve the campus’ relationship with BSU, as well as collaborate with other clubs, including Encouraging Respect of Sexualities, Supporting All Gender Experiences, and the Latinx Student Union. Souazoube also mentioned hosting events with the African Student Union, if the club reforms in the future.
Sutton is hoping potential club collaborations, either with other affinity groups or clubs that overlap with BSU’s interests, will increase attendance.
“We’re struggling with participation. I want to see if we could find a way to increase our participation…through club collabs,” Sutton said. “I want to make sure that what our members want we’re doing, [that] we’re not just doing something because we have money in the budget or because one executive member thinks that’s fine. I want our events to be for our members.”
In terms of events, they are looking to plan another showcase. In February, the BSU hosted Lift Every Voice and Sing, which featured singing, slam poetry, and a routine from ShoreSteppers.
“I often feel like it’s the campus and then there’s BSU. I want people to know that BSU is for everyone. It is a safe space for Black students, but at the same time, we are open to everyone. This is a friendly space for everyone. We’re for the people,” Elliott said.
Souazoube reiterated the importance of advocacy and community, not just within BSU, but with the entire campus community.
“A lot of what we do is advocacy, but that’s not the entirety of what we are. I want [it] to also be a space where people can come in and have mentors and have friends and have supporters,” Souazoube said. “We’re not just a club where you go…once a week, but also where people feel like ‘I want to go there. I want to grab lunch with these people.’ My goal is really to create a space where leaders can be cultivated and empowered to lead.”
Sutton is hoping to increase involvement and “bridge the gap” between the executive board and the club members by hosting office hours at Minta Martin Hall.
“I’m looking forward to working with a lot of new people who are in new positions, [but] making sure that…our members [are] still involved, and hopefully I can find new ways to involve them into our decision making because it’s not really about the executive board. It’s more about how we please our general members,” Sutton said.
The new executive board officially started their term on April 10.