Jono Zeidan '12 elected SGA president: Large voter turnout fueled by competitive races

Posted by Andrew Cantor

On a Friday afternoon, SGA President Alex Stark '11 e-mailed the second round SGA election results to the campus. She announced the winners of a highly contested election for many positions, and said the elections received a very high voter turnout.


Students elected Jono Zeidan '12, currently vice-president of financial affairs, to the position of SGA president, the highest Executive Committee position in the college student government. He defeated Alex Bland '12, vice-president of club affairs.


"It was a pleasure to run against someone who was so qualified," said Zeidan in his first statement as president-elect. "I'm looking forward to the upcoming opportunities next year as SGA president."


According to the Stark's e-mail, 893 students voted.


 "We're really happy with the voter turnout. Usually participation is closer to 600 students," Stark said. "I think people voted because a lot of these positions were contested. It gets people excited."


In the other contested races, Logan Brenner '12 won the position of vice-president of club affairs, Raiza Nazareth '12 won the position of vice-president of communications and outreach and Aaron Shifreen '12 won the position of vice-president of residential affairs.


All candidates running in uncontested executive committee races won against votes of no-confidence or abstentions: Melvis Langyinto '12 for senior class president, Thomas Rivera '13 for vice-president of academic affairs and Ethan Flum '12 for vice-president of financial affairs.


All candidates running in uncontested inter-hall board races won against votes of no-confidence or abstentions: Jess Sonnenfeld '14 for Howe-Rounds president, Daniel Gaunard '14 for How-Rounds vice-president, Britt Dorfman '14 for Kimball vice-president, Lindsey Decker for Penfield vice-president, Molly Grant '14 for Wait vice-president, Kim Ohnemus '14 for Wiecking president, Jess Strasser for Wiecking vice-president, and Margeau Canon '14 for Wilmarth vice-president.

At 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening, about 100 people packed into the SPA for the second round of SGA Speech Night. During the course of the two-and-a-half hour event, 20 students delivered speeches for significant SGA positions including SGA President.

Voting began at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday morning and ended at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Election results were not available as of press time on Thursday, as elections had not yet ended. Students who voted were automatically entered into a raffle with a chance to win gift certificates to local restaurants.

Many students' platforms focused on adding transparency to SGA to make the group's policies more clear to members of the student body. Students also campaigned to change the general campus culture in response to the recent dialogues about diversity.

Students also proposed "fun" all-college events, such as hosting a snowball fight and purchasing sleds for the student body, both related to the snowy winter months the college historically experiences.

According to SGA President Alex Stark, Wednesday's Speech Night received one of the largest audiences during her four years at the college.

SGA President: Jono Zeidan vs. Alex Bland

Students ran contested in nearly every executive board position for round two of elections. Alex Bland '12 and Jono Zeidan '12 both ran for SGA president, the highest executive committee position.

Bland started his speech for president by commenting on SGA's lack of transparency.

"On an average day I'll have a conversation with someone and I'll tell them I'm in SGA… I get the response ‘what is SGA?,' ‘what does SGA' do?'," Bland said. "People think it's just an acronym on a poster."

"Our biggest accomplishments don't always come from inside, they come from the student body," Bland said.

Zeidan agreed. "Perhaps the biggest thing SGA does is extract ideas from everyone else," he said.

Bland said SGA sometimes receives superficial requests, like including an elevator in Scribner Village to connect to the Jonsson Tower parking lot, but also receives more significant requests, like changing the college's Sexual Assault Policy.

Zeidan began his speech by appealing to the audience with references of classic Skidmore all-college events.

"Did you know Skidmore used to have competitive mud wrestling?," Zeidan said. "We used to have hot tubs on the green in the dead of winter. We can bring the fun back to Skidmore… Those are some silly ideas but we I have some other [serious] things we can get done."

The candidates were asked what they thought of the diversity dialogues on campus, and how they would continue them, if at all, in the following semesters.

"I didn't know there was such an issue until I went to the dialogues," Bland said. "They caught me off guard… I think the biggest problem is that people just don't know."

Zeidan said the larger issue was that students feel uncomfortable on campus, and binge drinking has a been a way to remedy the discomfort.

"Alcohol is a symptom of this discomfort about diversity," Zeidan said. "Through these dialogues, we've laid the foundation, and now it's time to take the next step."

Bland saw the issue of diversity differently.

"I agree alcohol is a problem on campus but it's different than diversity," Bland said. "We need to address both [separately]."

One member of the audience said both candidates' platforms were similar, and asked what distinguishes each other from their candidate.

Neither candidate fully distinguished themselves from their opponent.

"We both even kind of look alike on paper so we're the same," Zeidan said. "I'm not going to bash Alex [Bland], he's a good friend of mine. What separates us is what's off the paper."

"The full commitment is pretty extreme and I'm ready to deal with it," Bland said.

Vice-President of Club Affairs: Donald Duff vs. Logan Brenner

Donald Duff '13 ran against Logan Brenner '12 for the position of vp for club affairs.

This past fall, Brenner resigned from her yearlong position as vp for academic affairs to go abroad to Turks and Caicos. Brenner gave her speech via a YouTube video she filmed outside by a beach, and she answered questions previously asked of her via Facebook.

The candidates outlined their procedures for chartering and de-chartering clubs.

"I would go through charters with the club affairs committee, and would ask the [executive] boards of these clubs to meet with the club affairs committee and if they've been inactive they should propose a plan for change for more activity," Brenner said. "I think all clubs deserve a chance [though]."

Duff campaigned for a more stringent policy on chartering clubs.

"The possible club or student members will have… a five week trial period before a recommendation to be chartered," Duff said. "For de-chartering, the club would have to be inactive for the semester, and would be put on probation status. If it remained inactive the next semester, they would be de-chartered by majority vote," he said.

Candidates were asked to elaborate on how they would change more bureaucratic processes, like the club presidents' meeting.

"I would like to create a social event in cooperation with presidents and vice presidents of clubs," Duff said. "I also think there should be interim evaluations of club presidents."

Brenner also campaigned for more social club presidents meetings.

"I'll make sure the meeting is properly publicized for their clubs try to get their opinions on how the semester is going… It'll probably be better with food in their stomachs… also smaller meetings would be helpful," she said.

Outside of his prospective duties for vp of club affairs, Duff plans to sponsor several SGA resolutions.

"I have not brought one to the senate but I plan to bring on in the coming weeks. One passed by Thomas Rivera, how the vp of diversity affairs should have OSDP experience. To understand what diversity is you have to be a part of OSDP club," Duff said. "Also one [resolution] by Leeland [Martin ‘14] … A Resolution for sleds for the coming year. It will create more fun. We'll have better things to do around here," he said.


Vice-President of Academic Affairs: Thomas Rivera-Patterson, unopposed

Thomas Rivera '13, vp for academic affairs, ran for the position he currently serves. Rivera won an uncontested election in February after Logan Brenner '12 resigned and vacated the position, as she is studying abroad this semester.

Rivera, in his role as vp for academic affairs, offered many changes to the current academic program and academic social life.

"I want to have a faculty and student dinner," Rivera said. "I think this will create a better relationship between students and faculty, and we'll get to build that bond… I've heard a lot of people saying they're in biology and they've never met anyone in the government department."

In addition to the outside of the classroom experience, Rivera is planning a service-learning program, which is not limited to volunteer work.

"I plan to have a student in every single academic major represent to other students in the major options for service learning," he said.

Alex Brehm '12 asked Rivera if he supported internship work, even if students, who are not getting paid, end up paying thousands of dollars for credit hours, whether it is "out-of-pocket" or paid through scholarship.

Rivera did not see this as a problem.

"Service learning is entirely worth it," Rivera said. "You're doing something active, doing workshops… When you engage in what you're studying, along with the internship, it's worth it."

Inside the classroom, Rivera said he plans to propose a public speaking course.

While Rivera feels comfortable in his role as vp for academic affairs, but he said it was not initially easy learning the procedures.

"There was a barrier to a certain extent. The more communication got better, things got better," he said. "I was nervous first as vp… But we're getting to the point now where we can move forward [more smoothly]."

While the candidates running for executive committee positions received more questions and had a larger audience to deliver their speeches to, the other candidates running gave equal attention to their speeches and platforms.

For executive committee positions, Melvis Langyinto '12 ran for the position of senior class president, Raiza Nazareth '12 and Alec Unkovic '12 ran for vp of communication and outreach, Jovany Andujar '13 ran for vp of diversity affairs, Ethan Flum '12 ran for vp of financial affairs and Alexis Curry '12 and Aaron Shifreen '12 ran for vp for residential affairs.

The candidates running for hall presidents and vice presidents all ran uncontested.

The candidates for vp of residential affairs commented on the future role of popular college drinking events like Moorebid Ball and Fun Day, as their position requires them to monitor and administer the events.

The 2010 Moorebid Ball received national media attention after 14 attendees were hospitalized for alcohol-related sickness and injury.  

"I want to speak with past planners of Moorebid Ball," Curry said. "I want to see how the event was transferred to Moore Hall [to Case Center], and see what was fundamental in doing that… We have to make sure Moorebid and Fun Day continue."

The recent race dialogues have also received attention, in the The Skidmore News and through various forums on campus.

Jovani Andujar ‘13 ran uncontested for vp of diversity affairs, and would be a leading voice in diversity affairs in his capacity in that position.

He said he wants to change the way diversity is perceived on campus.

"Diversity isn't about numbers," Andujar said. "It's about the interaction between the groups of people. There people who want to see diversity as something only visual. Diversity is more than something on someone's face and the color of their skin."

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