Campaigning Begins as Knopp, McKenna and Shakouri Vie for 2022-23 SGA President and VP

Payton Gore, Staff Writer

Leadup to the elections for next year’s Student Government Association (SGA) executives is underway as the SGA recently announced that juniors Shane Knopp and Matt McKenna will campaign for student body president while Parna Shakouri runs unopposed for vice president. Following a ‘Meet the Candidates’ town hall on March 8 and nearly a month of campaigning, voting will begin via GetInvolved on Sunday, April 3, and the election results are set to be announced the following Saturday, April 9.  The election campaigning will take place predominantly in person for the first election cycle since spring 2019, and the remainder of the SGA’s cabinet — including the positions of liaison, treasurer and parliamentarian — will be elected later this semester, according to SGA President senior Elle Winter. 

“This election cycle is, fortunately, relatively normal in comparison to the last couple of years, where most of the campaigning was done online,” sophomore senator Tucker Cassidy said. “We should expect to see some candidates make some more public, in-person moves, such as setting up a table to advocate for their position — that sort of thing.”

As the last two years of elections have been primarily virtual amid the pandemic, McKenna said his campaign strategy will fuse social media campaigning with in-personal formats to connect with the student body, particularly underclassmen.

“While I am excited at the prospect of driving change for the senior class and helping us maximize our last year here on campus, I also take the responsibility of shaping change for our first and second-year students incredibly seriously. These students are the ones that will benefit most from the transformative changes I seek to take on,” McKenna said.  

Knopp said while the campaign process is challenging, he is excited that the conditions of the pandemic allow the SGA to host an in-person town hall with all of the candidates to share his platform with a broader audience.

“I’ll admit that I feel the process is quite daunting and demanding with a required 150 signature petition and month-long campaign period, but I think it’s pretty amazing that we’ll be able to have an in-person Town Hall and table in the Coop for the first time since the 2019 election. I still can’t believe that I get to be a part of it,” Knopp said, adding that his platform aims to seek a balance between tradition and change. “I love many of Colgate’s traditions, but I also recognize its issues including the divide between Greek Life and non-Greek Life communities, especially the BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented students. This is exactly what I want to address in my presidency; I strive to achieve a balance between change and tradition and to unite campus overall.”

Shakouri, who currently serves as the SGA’s liaison to student organizations, said that building trust among student communities is among the most important aspects of campaigning, someone she hopes to demonstrate in her platform.

“As vice president, I would continue to listen to and engage with my peers and remember that the SGA is not a separate entity but the epitome of our student body’s drive and passion for change,” Shakouri said. “Transparency and consistency are foundational to a sustainable relationship between SGA and the student body. I plan to continue meeting with different student organizations and individuals over my campaign period to build a strong sense of trust and solidarity with our community. I want my peers to know the importance of voting and voting wisely; vote for who you trust to represent your interest and the interest of the student body over their own.” 

As its most prominent elections get underway, the SGA has also worked to address other issues on campus, including the launch of its student organization audit program, an initiative spearheaded by Shakouri, and a resolution for more substantive ice removal and new student organization regulations, according to a February SGA weekly update email.

“[The initiative] I’m most excited for is an ice resolution expressing support for a more comprehensive approach to grounds maintenance before, during and after storms [like] salting the pathways,” said Jon Eaton, a class of 2024 senator. The initiative was passed as a result of student injuries due to ice conditions on campus, according to the email.

“I’m a big fan of the ice removal because [the Drake/Curtis] quad never gets fully cleared,” first-year Will Perry, who lives in Ciccone Commons.

Perry went on to express his interest in the new international flags that SGA will soon hang up in Frank Dining Hall as a way of fully acknowledging all of the different countries that the student body represents. The new flags in Frank include Algeria, Angola, Bermuda, Burkina Faso, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Haiti, Iceland, Iran, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Mongolia, Paraguay, Peru, Slovenia, Bahamas, Gambia, Guatemala, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ireland and Uzbekistan. The flags at Frank were originally hung in 2013 as an SGA-sponsored project, according to the Maroon-News, but have not been systematically updated since. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy flag was hung in 2018, and the Armenian flag was hung in an effort by the Armenian Students Association in 2019.

“It’s a very small thing, but I think it’s important,” Perry said. “I like that all [Colgate] students will be represented.” 

As first-year senator Will Allocco works on a sustainability initiative exploring the implementation of reverse vending machines on campus that would allow students to input cans and receive money back, Cassidy is researching transfer credit policies to inform a proposal expanding the types of courses students can receive transfer credit for, an initiative he hopes to bring to members of the university Academic Affairs Board. In addition to managing logistics of the flag updates in Frank and updating the sound system and furniture in the Harlem Renaissance Center, Winter is prioritizing developing and supporting the future leaders of the organization in the remaining time of her term.

“I’m focusing on making sure the underclassmen in SGA are developing the skills necessary to keep the organization’s current momentum after I graduate,” Winter said.