Student Union Primary Election kicks off 2023-2024 campaign season

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In the past few weeks, aspiring Harrisites have begun their annual campaigns for one of the 12 positions on the Student Union Executive Board. Thirty-five students were in the running for the recent primary election on April 27, though only positions with three or more candidates were on the Primary Ballot. The voting for the primaries took place digitally, with students having to fill out a Google Form ballot in order to cast their votes.

The results of the Primary Election are:

Senior Class President: Rachel Tan, Annie Wang

Secretary: Isabel Jagsaran, Melinda Wang

Senate Chair: Hailey Ahn, Zara Islam

Club Liaison: Tasnim Hossain, Alex Yauri

JSLT: Ethan Ben-David, Anastasia Gonidelis

Freshman-Sophomore Class President: Jenna Abdelhamid, Shaw Williams

To be offered a candidacy, interested students were given the task of collecting signatures from members of the freshman, sophomore, and junior grades – similar to the list of signatures that aspiring club leaders had to collect at the beginning of the spring term. This highlighted students’ ability to communicate with Harrisites and allowed them to display the support and qualification that they had to run for an SU position.

Two of the positions, SU President and SU Vice President, were unchallenged, making junior Hellen Oliviera and running mate junior Karen Lin the respective winners by default. Jasmyn Pillay is also running for Junior Class President unchallenged. Additionally, a number of the positions already had only two candidates running, including Hasan Raza and Jordan Hurwitz for Treasurer as well as Aiden Clarke and Emma Cheng for Senior Class Vice President, so the names of these students did not appear on the primary ballot.

The candidates have shared a wide variety of reasons for running for an SU board position, from being experienced due to past positions to wanting to help ease the transition of the incoming freshman grade.

Hellen said, “I’ve been working with the SU since my freshman [year], having been a senator,  sophomore class president, and now junior class president… Being able to see something grow from a thought to a successful, student-led activity makes me feel as though I’m contributing to the student body. Considering that improving upon what we already have is the platform I’ve been running on, I think running for SU President is the right thing to do.”

With official elections around the corner, candidates have expressed both their excitement and nerves, as well as the goals that they have for their position. 

Freshman Natalie Tamma, a candidate for Senate Chair, said, “Before and after the primary elections, I honestly feel at ease. Yes, there’s a chance that I don’t make it to the final two, but the fact that I tried and even campaigned against those who are in upper grades gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

Junior Rachel Tan, a candidate for Senior Class President, said, “With the official election coming up, I am excited to continue to share who I am as a leader with the junior grade, and regardless of the results, further immerse myself in the school community,” adding that her main goal in this role is to “create a bridge that closes the gap between the Student Union and Harrisites… by increasing resources, whether this be academic help, providing opportunities for jobs or scholarships, or any overall senior concerns.”

Junior Karen Lin, candidate for the SU Vice Presidency, said, “[Hellen and I] plan to thoroughly review and increase use of feedback forms to apply student preferences to the planning of future events… we [also] plan to bring back Town Halls, allowing students to directly relay their concerns via in-person conversation with SU members… [furthermore], we would like to update our SU Constitution to better reflect our school’s community, [placing] emphasis on club revitalization and reforming our club application process.”

Given that a position as an SU member comes with an immense amount of responsibility, students have stressed that it is vital for candidates to be dedicated to their position and willing to work with the student body at all times.

Senior David Babayev, the current Senior SLT, said, “I think future SU members should be able to work diligently and collaboratively to effectively contribute to the rest of the board and to serve the school. They should be able to prioritize and organize their own schedules, and understand that a role as big as this requires a great deal of effort.”

Junior Maya Koniarz said, “I believe that an SU board member should be committed, consistent, have clear goals, and prioritize the needs of the student body.”

Candidates have been using different strategies to promote their campaigns, from creative posters to social media posts. Almost every student running for a position on the SU board has started an Instagram account to promote their campaign, considering that it is one of the best ways to reach a student body that spends most of its time online.

Sophomore Alex Yauri, a candidate for Club Liaison, said that his campaign account “played a major role in terms of engaging voters since it allowed people to recognize [his] account and take [him] into consideration.”

David’s advice for future SU board members is that “you can’t always please everyone. While SU members work tirelessly to improve the school and put on great events, there will always be a chunk of the population that has something negative to say, because they aren’t in your position and they don’t know the efforts you take. So keep your head up and keep working hard.”