Recap of the SGA Sophomore Debate

By The Berea Torch

As the semester comes to a close and exams loom ever closer, the SGA elections for next semester have begun. Now that voting has started (with just a few errors), we will release a recap of Sophomore debate and what each candidate said so that the student body can make a more informed decision before casting their vote.

Three groups are running for the office of Sophomore president and vice-president:

  1. Andrea Ramos and Anya Kasianova
  2. Trayvion Newton and Suneil (Abhi) Avirneni
  3. Rilie Ledford and Halle Gensler (not present)

Andrea and Anya spoke about their past experience in the SGA and focused on the issue of sexual assault, as well as their commitment to increased awareness of international catastrophises such as the Russian Invasion of Ukraine and the Syrian Civil War.

AR: “It has been my absolute pleasure being Freshmen President, but now, a new year has come upon us and it is time to elect new people for new positions in the SGA… One big thing that Anya and I are both passionate about and want to bring change to is policies about harassment at the college. We have been listening to our peers and we have heard many stories pop up on the incline of harassment and that hasn’t been exactly resolved. Not only that, but both me and Anya have had our fair share of experiences on harassment experiences here at the college. So, what we want to do is to work with Title IX, Public Safety, and Counseling Services to make sure all people get the support they need… We want to create anti-harassment policies that have like actual background to it that show more support and have a more strict punishment for people who did the harassment.”

AK: “As you may know, Ukraine is at war right now and I have been very vocal these past few months about what has been happening there and I have been organizing events to help raise awareness about it as well. But, my ultimate goal for next semester and beyond would be to facilitate a platform for Berea College students towards other global citizens in crises in other countries such as Tigray, Palestine, Myanmar, and Syria because I feel like as a community, we have not been doing enough for those around us.”

Trayvion and Suneil spoke about the excess waste of the SGA and the need for a student government that would listen to the its constituents, or, in the words of Suneil “we’re your servants; we are not your bosses.”

TW: “I’m running for the position of Sophomore President because I want to see an improvement in communications between sophomores and the Student Government. I also want to help serve as a medium between the campus and sophomore student body… I have joined organizations such as CAB, and the Black Male Leadership Initiative. We are pushing for better food options in dining for vegan, vegetarian, and people with dietary restrictions. We are going to put administrative pressure on Sodexo… You’ll have two strong voices against the waste and excess in the SGA.”

SA: “The reason I am standing before you today is not just so I can become Sophomore Vice-President. There is so much more to it than that… You know why we want to run. Number one, improve dining. Number two, we want to make SGA transparent. And number three, ensure the tens and thousands of dollars that SGA receives is being used in a way that students would approve of… Our ultimate goal is to reach out to students and make sure that what is getting done is what they want to get done… We’re your servants; we are not your bosses.”

Rilie Ledford made the freedom of speech and creating more inclusivity on campus the priority of their speech. Furthermore, they aim to create a tighter network within the sophomore student body through higher engagement through events, as well as through the better transportation initiative.

RL: “My goal is to create a safe space for people to express their issues with policy. I believe in the ability to exercise free speech in order to compel change. I will work with the college for more transportation options. I believe that every student has a right to transportation… We here at Berea are forged by one blood and that is unbreakable. On top of fighting for you, I want to bring the sophomore class together. I have done this in the pass by organizing a Thanksgiving meal for students in Anna Smith who were not able to make it home over the break. My goal is to have even similar events to encourage the engagement of my fellow classmates. My experience as a Board of Residents member has given me the skills of allocating SGA funds and creating new Student Life policies.”

There were only two candidates for Sophomore senator though:

  1. Joy Mirembe
  2. Ülvi Gitaliyev

Joy spoke about giving a space for international students and others who are experiencing problems on campus to speak freely. She also mentioned her disillusionment with Berea College to a certain extent.

JM: “opposed to what you think ,I am not running for this over my CV. I really do not need this, because I don’t need to be on the SGA to get a tech job. I took a class this semester the women and gender class and that class really changed how I feel about so many things. Most importantly for me, it made me feel so uncomfortable. In a school that takes people who are disabled and says that it is going to do something, but does totally the opposite. So for me, being in a class where we come and speak about what Berea does and doesn’t offer put in a uncomfortable position… We felt so angry in class, because we talked about so many things in class, but nothing was every done…So many of you do not what is happening in places like Tigray and people are dying, so I hope that as the SGA, we get to create spaces where people can talk about where they are from and I really hope to bring my international perspective in the SGA.”

Ülvi spoke about the important of being a fighter for change in the SGA and promised that, if elected, he will not back down from risks of consequences in the pursuit of the students interests.

ÜG: “The purpose of not only the SGA but of any representative is to be a fighter for change and to be a fighter of change, you must not be willing to just stand up to your representative but also stand up to those who are above you. I have a proven track record, especially this semester, of standing up to those in power, to expose things going on in this college… I believe if any of you have a complaint, an issue, anything that needs to be solved… I am willing to put myself on the risk; I am willing to put my name on it.. I will not stop fighting for the students’ rights and for what is right until I have a definitive answer.”

You can watch the full debate on the SGA’s Facebook page here.

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