Jami Cox and Ryan Connor became Vanderbilt Student Government president and vice president on Wednesday, March 22, beating out Will Braithwaite and Sam Jenson, whose campaign focused largely on using humor to call attention to their goals.
“Obviously Wednesday was amazing for me and Ryan, definitely,” Cox said. “What a lot of people don’t see is they see our posters and banners and all of that but they don’t see the hard work that goes into getting all of that ready.”
Cox spent the second half of her spring break on campus preparing for the campaign season, which began with a primary between four candidates on that took place March 16-17. Even before that, she and Connor spent hours crafting their platform, which focused on advocacy, empowerment, transparency and accountability.
“That shows the dedication that we have to this, it’s not something that we just woke up and decided to do one day, Cox said. “We took a lot of time putting into the ideas and crafting a platform that we felt would be really really successful, but also really speak to what we wanted to do if we were elected.”
Cox is majoring in public policy studies and minoring in chinese language studies, and served as an Arts and Science Senator for VSG during the 2015-16 school year, while she was also serving as the vice president of the Black Students Association. During 2016-17, she became the president of the BSA, the Attorney General of VSG and an RA on Branscomb quad. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an NPHC organization. Upon graduation, Cox hopes to pursue a career in urban development by attending law school.
Connor is majoring in American Studies and serves as a tour guide, an RA in North House, a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, and the former co-chair of Experience Vanderbilt. He, too, hopes to attend law school to pursue his goal of fighting for educational equity in the United States.
Cox and Connor met through a Commons seminar during their freshman year, and stayed in touch through their involvement in VSG, as Cox served as a senator and Attorney General and Connor served two years on the Cabinet of the first-year team. They began discussing their plans for running for VSG president and vice president at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
One of the hardest parts with the campaign being the focal point for a lot of people is after that when Ryan and I start really putting in that work, people don’t get to see that part.
Cox’s campaign slogan was “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges,” and some of her specific platform points included creating an economic inclusivity task force, admitting failure, and advocating for the return of the Wall Street Journal and the Vanderbilt Readership Program.
One of Cox’s biggest goals for her administration is to get the full student body engaged with VSG and eliminate the sentiment that VSG does not create actionable change. She pointed out that while students often participate in elections, their attention dwindles after election season is over.
“One of the hardest parts with the campaign being the focal point for a lot of people is after that when Ryan and I start really putting in that work, people don’t get to see that part, because it’s a lot of the ‘behind the closed door’ thing,” Cox said. “So I think for us, what we really want to do is show them that the things we talked about during the campaign are the things we are actually working on.”
While Cox recognizes that changing the entire structure of VSG in her one-year term would be a stretch, she hopes to change the way that students understand the current structure. For example, Cox pointed out that many students don’t know the name of the senators that represent them in VSG senate, let alone communicate them about what they would like to see VSG do. She hopes to increase senators’ communication with their constituencies by having residential senators hold listening sessions in their residence halls, and she hopes to be intentional about advertising the work that senators get done so that students understand.
While Cox has many ideas of her own, she hopes to continue a lot of what outgoing president Ariana Fowler has accomplished as well.
“I thought Ariana did an excellent job,” Cox said. “I think that it is easier for me being in VSG and working with her and working with her cabinet to see a lot of the amazing things that she did. A lot of the work that she put in was definitely on campus but she also did a lot of work for Nashville and off campus and really got VSG engaged with the campuses that around–with Belmont, with TSU, with Fisk–and I think that was really groundbreaking.”
She also pointed out that Fowler’s administration made progress on making VSG more accountable and transparent by allocating 40 percent of the organization’s budget to cosponsorships.
“Cutting back internal spending in VSG was something that Ariana did really well,” Cox said. “And that really helped give money back to the students, which is what people wanted to hear. We increased the cosponsorship budget to 40 percent, so 40 percent of VSG’s money is going back to the people it was for.”
Cox hopes to both create change and continue the progress that VSG has made during the past year with Fowler as president.
“I think that was amazing and I think within Ryan and I’s administration we want to keep that going, we want to keep people engaged, we want to continue the work that she did.”