Published: April 28, 2015
Tim Donnelly, the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee in CLAS Student Government, was elected CLAS President for the next academic year on Wednesday. The Brooklyn College Global Medical Brigades’ (GMB) referendum to increase the Student Activity Fee $1 also passed, pending City University of New York (CUNY) approval.
Last Monday through Wednesday, the annual CLAS Student Government elections took place, and students were encouraged to participate by casting their votes for the candidates online at the BC Web Portal.
“I am disappointed that only six percent of the student body voted, especially when we have important issues such as [a] referendum[sic] being voted on,” Donnelly, the United Students League (USL) candidate, said. “But you can’t force people to vote.”
The College Wide Election Review Committee (CWERC), which reviewed the ballots Wednesday afternoon, reported that only 676 students voted in this year’s elections. Last year, approximately ten percent of the student body voted.
Ary Ariano ran with Donnelly for vice president. Graduate students elected Omari Williams and Anson Carter Graduate Student Organization (GSO) President and Vice President, respectively, and SGS students elected Adam Zauderer and Joseph Beinhorn SGS President and Vice President, respectively.
Four students tied in the SGS USS Alternate race. A winner has yet to be determined.
Some of the candidates set up their laptops in the WEB Building and encouraged students to use them in order to cast their vote online.
The CLAS Student Government represents and relates the Brooklyn College students’ views and concerns to the administrative agencies. It is divided up into the executive, legislative, and judiciary branch, consisting of a president and vice president, 29 Assembly members, and the judicial branch made of students that the Assembly and the executive branch appoint.
The lack of student participation in that past election disappointed the candidates.
“I think that it’s pathetic that six percent of students are voting,” said Shelley Jain, a junior broadcast journalism major, pre-med student, and re-elected CLAS Assembly member.
“It’s really important, especially at Brooklyn College, to vote,” said Jake Levin, a PHD Assembly member who was re-elected as an independent Assembly member in this year’s elections. “The Student Government is in charge of a $140,000 budget [with which it] hosts events. It’s the link between the students and the administration.” To Levin, more students voting ensures that the student body participates in the Brooklyn College community.
“I was just happy [to win],” Donnelly said. “My main focus at that point was on the Global Medical [Brigades’] referendum.”
59.5 percent of those who voted in the elections voted in favor of the referendum. David Wells, the Assistant Director for Civic Engagement and Orientation, said in an email to The Excelsior that the CUNY Board of Trustees, which reviews and decides on any increase in fees or tuition at CUNY colleges, is currently reviewing the referendum because such a small percentage of the student body voted to pass it.
That referendum, if approved, would add $1 per registered student to the Student Activity Fee and allocate it to the Global Medical Brigades’ budget. If approved, the Global Medical Brigades would receive more than $16,000 of funding every year, starting in the 2015-2016 academic year.
The student-run club is a chapter of the non-profit Global Brigades that aims to improve the quality of life in “under-resourced communities” through local and student teams of volunteers. Brooklyn College’s Global Medical Brigades takes certain members to other countries where the doctor-patient ratio is low. There, the students try to help doctors—mostly by administering long-term skills, such as educating patients on how to properly brush their teeth, maintain cleanliness, and prevent sexually-transmitted diseases.
“I guess if you’re taking six percent to be representative of the study body, then it shows that students care about the missions and the brigades,” Jain, a former GMB member, said. “And personally, I think they deserve to be a referendum club; they do a lot of good work.”
Jain, however, said that although GMB is a first step, she is not sure BC Global Medical Brigades is the best option, because it does not address underlying causes for health issues around the globe. “It doesn’t address the political, social, and economic issues of the nations” she said. “A lot of people belief GMB is one part of a biggest picture.”
For the upcoming year, Donnelly, along with the newly elected Student Government, plans to enact a 12 Months, 12 Events project. The idea, which was suggested by last year’s USL candidate for CLAS President, Karina Borshch, calls for an event every month of the year.
The project’s goal is to reach out to the student body and increase participation. These proposed events would include a cultural festival, movie events, an Oktoberfest, and opportunities for clubs to discuss different activities that they host over the year.
Another event Donnelly said may happen during finals week this year would be relaxation therapy for students by bringing puppies into the Brooklyn College Library.
In order to maximize student participation in these activities, the Student Government expressed a desire to increase its media outreach by starting a Brooklyn College Events page on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. “The goal is that if we get good outreach, we could do promotional things,” Donnelly said.
This year, candidates used social media to reach out to students, since campaigning on campus proved to be increasingly difficult due to various restrictions.
“There’s no good way to engage lots of people at once, except maybe Facebook,” Moshe Berman, an elected Assembly member, said . The popular student Facebook group Brooklyn College: In the Know, for example, allows students to learn more about the college community. However, information on Student Government as a whole can be found at classtudentgovernment.com.
Student Government also relied on emails to reach voters over the semester. “This year I noticed I received an email,” Courtney Holt, a graduate student studying psychology, said. “Until I received it, I had no clue about the elections….I would have loved to meet some of the candidates.”
Holt, however, said he wanted to participate more, but was unsure of when or how to vote in the GSO elections until it was too late.
In an effort to increase on-campus campaigning, candidates and student volunteers set up tables in front of Boylan Hall during common hours, where they answered students’ questions and talked to them about each of the candidates.
During his campaign, Donnelly spent his time interacting with the student body by meeting various campus clubs, messaging students, attending events, and hosting a few of his own, including the Cultural Festival held at the beginning of the year.
However, despite the efforts of Brooklyn College and other campaign volunteers, some students were still not aware of the elections. “I haven’t seen anything around campus,” sophomore Viviane Wahba said during the election period. “I didn’t vote, and probably won’t. I don’t think the people running publicized it enough or tried to get their platforms across.”