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After sparsely attended debate, Gharib wins BSG presidential election on low turnout

April 28, 2022

This past weekend, the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) held elections for its executive council.

In the presidential election, Susu Gharib ’23 won with 175 votes (51.9 percent). Her opponent, Luke Bartol ’23, received 153 votes (45.4 percent). Nine students (2.7 percent) spoiled their ballots.

Francisco Adame Perez ’24 ran unopposed for vice president, garnering the votes of 267 students (79.2 percent). 46 students (13.7 percent) selected the “no vote” option, and 24 students (7.1 percent) spoiled their ballots.

Samuel Thomson ’24 also ran unopposed for chair of student activities. He received 245 votes (72.7 percent), while 69 students (20.5 percent) chose the “no vote” option and 23 students (6.8 percent) spoiled their ballots.

Reflective of the student body’s lack of enthusiasm for student government, five positions remain unfilled because of a lack of interest. These positions were chair of student affairs, chair of academic affairs, chair of diversity and inclusion, chair of student organizations and chair of the treasury.

Only 337 students of the more than 1900 eligible cast ballots in the election, a turnout rate of under 20 percent.

Before the polls closed, Bartol and Gharib participated in a debate at Jack Magee’s Pub and Grill in the David Saul Smith Union on Friday. The debate was moderated by Lucas Dufalla ’24 and Juliana Vandermark ’24, reporters on the Bowdoin Orient.

Although discussion at the debate was vigorous, student interest in the debate—like in the election itself—was sparse. Fewer than ten students were present at the debate.

To begin the debate, the candidates introduced themselves and described their goals should they become the BSG president. Gharib explained that she hopes to make the BSG more accountable to the student body while making campus more inclusive.

“I want [our] campus to be a more welcoming, open and inclusive space for all students. I also want to focus on making the BSG a body that accomplishes what it says it’s going to do,” Gharib said. “While I as one person can’t fix the structural issues, I want to do my best to make [Bowdoin] more positive for everyone.”

Gharib then detailed the four main tenets of her campaign: expanding access to BSG, taking direct action to reduce campus division, increasing transparency regarding the actions of the BSG and supporting students’ mental health and wellness. To achieve this final goal, Gharib noted that she would work to add mandated mental health days to professors’ syllabi and increase the diversity of the College’s counseling staff.

In his opening statement, Bartol shared his desire to increase student interaction with the BSG and improve the student experience on campus. Specifically, he mentioned his plans to livestream the BSG’s weekly meetings for students who cannot attend in person, eliminate the cost of laundry at the College and implement a system of free public transit in the Brunswick area.

The candidates were also asked about their thoughts on the BSG’s constitutional amendments, which were approved by the student body in the weekend’s election. Both candidates believed that the reduction of the number of signatures needed to run for the BSG offices from 50 to 15 would be beneficial in increasing the number of candidates running in the BSG’s elections.

“It’s been a barrier to get 50 people to sign for you, and then [candidates] feel that they’re being annoying and harassing people to get [the required number of signatures],” Gharib said. “Even if someone is going out of their way to get signatures, that shows that they want to run and they want to make a change.”

After the moderators’ questions, members of the audience addressed the candidates.

Colter Adams ’24, a guitarist and singer for the student band “Mistaken for Strangers,” asked the candidates about their plans to help support student bands, including paying for these groups for performing at College-sanctioned events.

“As someone in a band, I would love to get paid for that,” Bartol said. “I know as [the] BSG, we’ve found that’s not something we personally are able to do … Unfortunately, it’s in the administration’s hands, but voicing that it’s really a concern for us is the first step.”

Gharib encouraged College Houses, class councils and other groups with event budgets to book student bands and pay them for playing at events.

Later, outgoing the BSG president Ryan Britt ’22 asked Bartol and Gharib how they would work to support first-generation, low-income students on campus.

Bartol, who grew up less than an hour from the College near Augusta, said he would focus on creating programs designed to help first-generation and low-income students feel comfortable at the College and in Midcoast Maine.

Gharib described her own experiences visiting Bowdoin as a prospective student through the Explore Bowdoin program, which allows students primarily from lower-income backgrounds to visit the College and spend time with students and professors. She also mentioned that she would enhance the BSG’s partnership with THRIVE, a program designed to aid low-income, first-generation students throughout their time at the College.

Lucas Dufalla ’24 and Juliana Vandermark ’24 are members of the Bowdoin Orient.

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