By Gabriela Flores
Several University Student Senate members gathered for their first in-person plenary meeting on Sunday, Sept. 18, where they nominated student government leaders across CUNY for the body’s Steering Committee. Some nominees are running without opposition, including the committee’s current chairperson Salimatou Doumbouya, who is seeking re-election.
There are 10 positions that make up Steering, which leads and oversees USS operations. Four nominees are currently running uncontested, including Brooklyn College’s Aharon Grama for Vice Chair for Senior College Affairs. Chair Doumbouya is the only ticket in the race for chairperson, who mentioned the importance of continuity in addressing student concerns effectively.
“I believe in the power of continuity, the work that’s been started has to be continued,” Doumbouya said during the meeting, who noted that she advocated for USS to have representation in the university’s athletics division given that the body allocates $100,000 of its funding to the department.
Three candidates are currently in the race for the second-in-command position of Vice Chair of Legislative Affairs: Senators Jamal Mark from Queens College, Aryeh Kalb from Lehman, and Frank Lachappelle from City Tech. Each promised to represent the university’s student body and work diligently alongside the future chairperson.
“When I started to volunteer as a freshman, I started to understand the galvanization of students and I wanted to be part of that experience,” said Lachappelle, who is majoring in data science. “Literally wasn’t until my third year I didn’t become a member because I didn’t believe a title made you a member. I believed your work did, and that’s why I’m here.”
Kalb, who led the group that proposed changes to the USS Elections Review Committee, joined campus governance as a politically active and aware student.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of campaigns, and I think it’s really important to vote and be involved in every level of government – student government, city government, state government, everything,” said Kalb, who is majoring in political science.
Mark’s start in student government dates from his middle school years, where his experience led him to become Queens College’s student association president.
“I only came to student government for one thing: and that’s to make a difference and to also be the voice of all the students, all the community, and be a better leader, and be a better person at the end of the day,” Mark said.
Before delegates nominated their candidates, changes were made to USS’s Elections Review Committee regulations that were established years ago. The new rules clarified how candidates can interact with student press and use their personal email addresses to avoid any accusations of unfairly advancing their campaign with CUNY resources. These changes are backdropped by last year’s contentious disqualification of Grama, Brooklyn College’s undergraduate student government president, who ran for chairperson.
“What we did was to clarify USSERC’s rules to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Kalb told the Vanguard.
If a candidate is approached for interviews from student outlets, they are required to ask the reporter to also request interviews from those running for the same position. Steering nominees are also allowed to use their personal school emails and other personal technology like their CUNY Zoom accounts for anything related to their campaign.
“If you want to make rules you have to be very clear about them, and balance with that. And that’s what the changes over there [USSERC] reflect,” Grama said, who also formed part of the group that proposed these amendments.
The changes also enable USSERC to revoke a nominee’s candidacy if they are guilty of harassment, rather than send the report to the Ethics Committee which may prolong repercussions.
USS elections are set for Sunday, Oct. 2. There, candidates will need to win at least 29 votes to win the majority vote and become elected.
Editor’s Note: The Vanguard previously reported that the elections would be held on Oct. 22. This was incorrect. The elections are scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 2.