On Wednesday, students filled the chairs of Jack Magee’s Pub and Grill to watch the annual Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) election debates. Moderated by the Orient’s editors-in-chief Calder McHugh ’19 and Jessica Piper ’19, the debates gave students the opportunity to get to know the candidates for next year’s BSG executive team and hear their proposed platforms.
This year’s voting process will differ from previous years in one key way: Dylan Hayton-Ruffner ’20 created a new software to facilitate ranked-choice voting through Blink. Current Vice President for Student Government Affairs Amber Rock ’19 said that this election, which features three presidential candidates, serves as a good way of seeing how ranked-choice voting plays out on Bowdoin’s campus.
In their opening statements, all three presidential candidates referenced the various experiences and leadership positions they have held that make them qualified for the presidency. Yet despite their differing platforms, making students feel comfortable bringing their ideas to BSG emerged as a clear goal.
Nate DeMoranville ’20 has held multiple positions on BSG. Previously, he has been a class representative and a class president, and he is currently the chair of Facilities and Sustainability He also chaired the dining advisory committee and played an influential role in bringing picnic tables to the patio outside Moulton Union.
Ural Mishra ’20 has served as a class and curriculum representative. He cited his continuous efforts to make syllabi available during class registration.
Salim Salim ’20 emphasized the many perspectives he has gained from being on class council, reporting for the Orient, working with the Office of Residential Life (ResLife) and experiencing Bowdoin as an immigrant.
Throughout the debate, candidates voiced similar concerns about mental health services and campus divides. However, when moderators pressed candidates further about their platforms, it was revealed that not all candidates have similar solutions in mind.
Salim stressed the importance of making it easier for financial aid students to access certain resources and making UV lamps more accessible during the winter. He named the difficulty of accessing these types of resources as Bowdoin’s biggest flaw. He also said Counseling Services could benefit from increasing their transparency and number of counselors.
DeMoranville, on the other hand, argued that Counseling has an undeserved bad perception.
“They offer good services, but we need to reduce the barriers of entry,” DeMoranville said. “There just needs to be a better way of connecting students to counseling.”
In addition to praising Hamilton College’s efficient case management program, Mishra said more money should be budgeted toward Counseling Services from alumni and the Office of Student Affairs.
Mishra named the Dean of Students Office when asked to share what he thought was Bowdoin’s biggest flaw.
“The bureaucratic structure of the dean’s office gets in the way of student activism,” he said. “I want to convey to the administration that it is difficult for students to voice their opinions.”
For DeMoranville, Bowdoin’s biggest flaw relates to campus divides. He wants to encourage students to act on the ideal of creating an inclusive environment. He proposed bringing back the Bowdoin Hello, renovating David Saul Smith Union’s game room and improving connections between upperclassmen and underclassmen.
Both Salim and Mishra also noted this issue on campus, too. Salim advocated for more intersectional dialogue, and Mishra suggested utilizing student organizations and the College Houses to fix the athlete and non-athlete divide.
When Aneka Kazlyna ’20 and Arein Nguyen ’21, the vice presidential candidates, took to the podiums, they echoed the sentiments of the presidential candidates. They referenced flaws in mental health services and suggested cutting down the BSG budget in favor of more student-led activities. However, they also introduced new ideas unique to their own platforms.
Regarding mental health, Kazlyna recommended training students to operate hotlines that respond to student concerns about anything ranging from academic stress to eating disorders and depression. Referring to Health Services’ limited hours, she also outlined the benefits of increasing the accessibility of low-cost contraception and other health products, and emphasized streamlining the process of reporting sexual violence.
Nguyen advocated pressuring the administration to grant the housekeeping staff a living wage. In response to the moderators’ question about prohibiting bias incidents, Nguyen commended the efforts of Res Life and the Real Talks on Class and Race, but expressed interest in revitalizing Common Hour, a time for students to talk about issues together. He also thought faculty training played an important role in campus culture.
“As we become more diverse, professors must be trained to make students feel more comfortable and welcomed,” Nguyen said.
Other than Lily Tedford ’22 and Carlos Campos ’22, who were running against each other for Chair of Academic Affairs, the rest of the elections were uncontested.
Though Rock doesn’t know why there were so many uncontested positions this year, she noted there are a lot of first years currently on the BSG assembly who are running for positions.
“It’s really cool to watch them grow as leaders and take on these new positions,” she said.
Both Tedford and Campos advocated for the implementation of double minors as well as various ways to improve students’ mental health. Tedford proposed college sanctioned surprise days off, limiting assignments over breaks and bringing mental health into more conversations on campus, while Campos proposed improving non-academic spaces, helping financial aid students gain better access to textbooks and lab goggles and expanding peer-to-peer mentoring.
Voting opened this morning at 9 a.m. and will remain open until 9 p.m. on Sunday. BSG will be providing iPads and QR codes in Smith Union to encourage increased voter turnout. Elections for the Class of 2021 and Class of 2022 class councils will take place next week.