2021 SGA Senate Elections Endure Post-COVID-19 Challenges

At the start of the fall 2021 semester, the Student Government Association (SGA) began its annual process of electing 10 new student senators from each class year. While the return to a normal year on campus guarantees a more traditional job for the new group of senators, the challenges of this transition have affected this year’s election.

The process began in early September when the election commissioners, first-year Ekaterina Balsan and senior Evie Unger-Harquail, sent Colgate students instructions on how to run for the position. A minimum of 35 electronic signatures and a candidacy statement were required to run. 

Once the Commissioners received materials from interested students, all students were encouraged to vote for their respective class’s candidates. According to Balsan, a first-year who applied for her role earlier in the semester, elections have been consistently organized using this process in the past. 

When asked about the prospects for this year’s Senate, junior Rhett Adams commented on the need for elected Senators to listen to students’ voices.

“I hope the Senate listened to the needs of the students more than the agenda of the faculty,” Adams said.

This year, elected sophomores and juniors were required to participate in a run-off election to fill every seat available. 

“Following the restricted nature of life on campus last year, a decent portion of the student body has yet to see what Student Government is able to accomplish in a typical year,” said senior Elle Winter, SGA President, who selected this year’s election commissioners. “We’re viewing these run-off elections [as] an opportunity to welcome students into SGA who may have had some initial reservations about running.”

As this was the first election cycle since COVID-19 restrictions began, the transition to in-person procedures presented challenges. An oversight in the process during the first round of voting led to one first-year candidate’s name being unintentionally left off the ballot — an error that eventually sparked a recount of the entire class’s votes.

“This hiccup just goes to show that, like the rest of the student body, those of us in SGA are still getting readjusted to the happenings of a typical year,” Winter said.

Despite these obstacles, enthusiasm for the future of the SGA Senate remains high. First-year student, Despina Anastasiou, a candidate for the Class of 2025, sees the opportunity as a way to connect more with her fellow classmates. 

“When I decided to run for Senate, I knocked from door-to-door introducing myself to my commons, gathering votes for the ballot, and making sure people knew who I was on a more personal level,” Anastasiou said. “While it can feel competitive at times, Colgate has set up a great system giving every student on campus the equal opportunity to be a part of SGA and have their voice heard through the mini blurbs written under each candidate’s name on the voting site.”

The newly elected senators will work directly with each other, the administration, and fellow classmates. “Those that are elected to the Senate will become a part of an organization of like-minded students who are passionate about instituting change on campus,” Winter said when asked about the responsibilities of senators. “Being a part of the Senate is an amazing opportunity to represent your peers and collaborate with members of the administration. 

Many of the changes the SGA Senate has planned for this academic year will have direct impacts on students at Colgate. 

“One of the projects I’m most excited about for this fall is developing a series of student focus groups to provide direction for the future of Bystander Training and Haven’s Sexual Assault Prevention Training,” Winter said. “Given that lots of students have expressed displeasure about how the content in these trainings is framed and the topics that are discussed, I believe this will be a great opportunity for Colgate students to take part in shaping the university’s culture surrounding sexual violence.”

Although this election cycle has looked different than normal, candidates are confident in the future of the SGA Senate,” Anastasiou said. “No matter who ends up being elected, all those who are running beside me […] have an equal love for Colgate and have the best intentions to make this year the best it can be for our grade.”