Candidates for Barnard Student Government Association’s first-year class council shared platforms that addressed recurring student concerns, such as Barnard’s dining hall swipe-in and dorm guest policies, but also paid more attention to the experiences of low-income, undocumented, and international students on campus at the candidates’ forum on Sunday.
First-year students can elect their class president and vice president by voting online on myBarnard. Last year, first-year class treasurer and secretary were elected by students, but this year students can apply through an application process and will be voted on by SGA’s representative council.
Voting begins on myBarnard at 9 a.m. on Monday and closes at 12 p.m. on Friday.
First-year class president
Candidates Claire Lee, BC ’21, Hannah Katz, BC ’21, Jenna Zucker, BC ’21, Naava Ellenberg, BC ’21, Sara Morales, BC ’21, and Yasemin Aykan, BC ’21, each said that they hope to increase the transparency of student government and represent all members of their class, particularly low-income, undocumented, and international students, as well as members of marginalized identity groups.
Lee, the former student body president of an all-girls’ high school in Hawaii, stressed the importance of hosting campus events that “all students” can identify with. Using movie nights as an example, Lee suggested showing non-American films in order to be more inclusive of all backgrounds and identities.
Katz, who served as student body president of her Florida high school, said she would like to help first-year students “find meaning” by participating in local volunteer work. Katz volunteers at a hospital and said she would like to partner with the sophomore class council to lead a volunteer initiative on campus.
Zucker began by focusing on Barnard’s guest policy, drawing on her experience addressing a similar issue at her boarding school. At her high school, Zucker worked closely with the administration to redesign the school’s approach to visitors in the dorms while conducting extensive research on the policies of similarly sized schools. If elected president, Zucker said she would take a similar approach in addressing Barnard’s guest policy.
In order to increase participation in student government, Ellenberg said she hopes to expand platforms through which students can share their voices with members of student government with increased use of social media platforms. To foster inclusivity, she said she would like to plan more events during which the Barnard community can bond, such as city excursions, milkshake breaks, and pre-major meetups.
“I am passionate about bringing people together and turning ideas into action,” Ellenberg said. “I will create a supportive environment and foster relationships as I cheer on classmates and celebrate your successes. I am prepared to be not only your president, but your biggest fan.”
Morales, a first-generation and low-income Latina student, said she plans to magnify the voices of students with marginalized identities. She cited peer mentoring programs, attendance leniency for those celebrating religious holidays, and volunteer work as ways to promote inclusivity and student-body participation.
Referencing the current political climate, Morales advocated for increased interaction with the surrounding community through immigration centers, urban farming, and DACA advocacy.
In addition to increasing platforms for student voices, Aykan said she hopes to address laundry costs and difficulties with class registration.
As an international student from Turkey, Aykan said that she has been inspired to empower other women.
“My main goal is to bring us, Barnard woman, even further than the first class [of Barnard] ever imagined,” Aykan said.
First-year class vice president
As candidates for first-year class vice president, Tirzah Anderson, BC ’21, Tina Gao, BC ’21, Tianjiao (Ashley) Sheng, BC ’21, and Heer Baxi, BC ’21, discussed the experiences of low-income students and solutions to enhance equity and fight food insecurity, such as subsidized textbooks.
Anderson’s platform focused on promoting inclusivity and accessibility inside and outside of the classroom. Acknowledging that she cannot “fully understand the experiences faced by every member of this institution,” Anderson said that she hoped to “work with identity-based affinity groups to understand the needs that they have.”
Gao, a former representative for the 2017 Youth Assembly at the United Nations, said that she hopes to make textbooks more affordable, eliminate food insecurity, and promote inclusivity within the Barnard community by working directly with the students impacted by these issues.
As a first-generation, low-income, Asian-American student, Gao said her experiences have allowed her to understand the “common goals, struggles, and experiences lots of students face within and outside of Barnard.”
Baxi mentioned Barnard’s commitment to divest from climate science deniers, and said she plans to increase the accessibility of student government so that students can continue to participate in similar financial decisions.
Discussing the first-year transition, Baxi suggested events and cultural celebrations to escape “the stress bubble that [students] often create.”
She also expressed her commitment to advocating for the international, transfer, and commuter student communities and said, if elected, she looks forward to serving on the Transfer, International, and Commuter Student Interests Committee.
Sheng highlighted her “giveback mentality” and vowed to voice student concerns to both SGA and the Barnard faculty. She said she hopes to create mentorship programs that connect underclassmen to upperclassmen, as well.Sheng also said she plans to create a platform for people to speak up about their experiences and identities through “exhibitions and performances.”
When asked how they plan to promote inclusivity and diversity at Barnard, the candidates emphasized the importance of working directly with cultural and identity groups on campus, such as the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters and the South Asian Feminisms Alliance.