Get to know the VSG presidential candidates

The four candidates and their running mates talk platforms, qualifications and goals

Primary elections for Vanderbilt Student Government Student Body President will open March 16 at 8 a.m. and close on March 17 at noon. Voting will be online through Anchorlink, and the two candidates with the highest number of votes will proceed to the general election, which will occur next week, opening at 8 a.m. on March 21 and closing at noon on March 22. 

The four candidates and their running mates are Will Braithwaite and Sam Jenson, Jami Cox and Ryan Connor, Samuel DeFabrizio and Priya Trivedi and Trey Ellis and Hamzah Raza.

The Hustler sat down with each of the four candidates and their running mates to ask them about themselves, their reasons for running for president and their platforms.

What are you involved in on campus?

Will Braithwaite: Right now I’m involved in Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, Tongue and Cheek improv comedy, and the a capella group the Dodecaphonics, which is currently on hiatus because our president went abroad. And that is a major part of the reason we are trying to get our abroad students back on campus by next semester.

Jami Cox: Obviously I’m involved in VSG, I’m the current Attorney General. Outside of that, I’m a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., which is an NPHC organization. I’m an RA in Branscomb, which surprises everybody because I chose to live in Branscomb as an upperclassman but it’s great. And outside of that, I’m the former president of the Black Students Association.

Sam DeFabrizio: My campus involvement, since the day I stepped on campus, has been based around a few organizations, first and foremost cross country. I’m a member of the Vanderbilt men’s cross country team, we train year round, we compete year round. Through student government, I spend the majority of the rest of my time. Freshman year I was involved as a floor rep, and then I was given the position of Academic Affairs Chair which means I run a committee. Finally, I’m a part AKPsi which is our professional business fraternity. And then some other involvement; I’ve been on committees for the selection of the replacement for Blackboard, I’m on the undergraduate advisory council to Dean Benton and the economics department, so I’ve served in some roles that I can advocate for students.

Trey Ellis: The areas that I’m involved in on campus: I’m a wide receiver on the Vanderbilt football team, I’m a member of the Nu Rho chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi here, I’m the Vice Polemarch, I’m a VSG Senator, I’m a member of the Community Building, Outreach and Adversity Committee of VSG.

What motivated you to run for VSG President or Vice President?

Jami Cox: For me, my biggest motivator was that I wasn’t really involved in VSG freshman year. I sort of saw all of CLC, but all of that was sort of just way too overwhelming for me. I was really active in BSA, I was BSA’s freshman rep, but I was also on the Hidden Dores increasing representation committee and from that I just really felt like the things I was doing in committee I could actually just do in real life on campus by getting involved in VSG and through my time in VSG  I felt like that is really what it’s all about: making sure I’m representing organizations on campus and the passions that I represent as a member of VSG.

Sam DeFabrizio: About two months ago, I sat down and tried to figure out what I wanted to do in the organization next year. I wanted to work on a lot of the same initiatives that I’ve worked on as Academic Affairs Chair, but I realized that there were some initiatives that didn’t fall under the bracket of academic affairs. And so I looked at how the presidential role runs. The presidential role is very similar to a committee chair; you’re meeting with administrators on a regular basis, you’re hearing from students and you’re trying to bring people to the table. So I thought, I want to help enable these initiatives that I’m passionate about and enable other people’s initiatives, and the president is the best role for this.

Sam Jenson: We were motivated because we wanted to mix things up. We have seen the same set of VSG insiders, we think, run every year, and you know who’s gonna run before they even run almost. And we didn’t decide to run until about two weeks ago, when I woke Will up in a fever dream. And that’s when we decided to run.

Hamzah Raza: Students always ask the question “What does VSG really do?” and a lot of what VSG does is stuff that I kind of see as useless. They sit around revising statutes that don’t affect the lives of the average student; we debated the dress code for an hour. So it was kind of disappointing, being a member of the Senate. College is such an exciting time in our lives, a time when we can impact others in so many ways, and they kind of just waste all this time. But I also saw VSG as a place of a lot of potential. And that potential was really seen on Nov. 30, when I introduced the sanctuary campus bill. And one thing about the bill, is that over 200 people came out to a Senate meeting, and to me, that was huge. That’s what I want VSG to be. I was VSG to be an institution that people are actively involved in and want to be a part of. I want it to be an institution that impassions students, and basically I want to channel the energy of the students sand do what they want within VSG.

Which platform point are you most passionate about?

Will Braithwaite: The passion about our platform points rotates day to day depending on what’s going on around campus. For example, right now Sam is really hooked in the inhumane dispersal of birds because he has been having a lot of bird-human interaction, and he wants to rid the campus of the birds. But for me, we got back from spring break and Barnard made some huge strides in their building. They now have a steeple-like structure and that made me really riled up about our platform point of tearing down Barnard back to rubble.

Ryan Connor: I think, for me, the platform point that I’m most passionate about is that we want to promote an exploratory ad-hoc committee for economic inclusivity at Vanderbilt. By being on Experience Vanderbilt last year, it’s something that means a lot to me, because I think as a student on financial aid on campus, there are a lot of elements on campus that we don’t realize people on financial aid go through. So I think it’s important that we form that committee to explain outside of the organization perspective, which Experience Vanderbilt hits, and outside of going to Vanderbilt, that we explore some of the other ways that economic inclusivity can be increased on campus.

Sam DeFabrizio: We talk about building a one, three, five, seven and 10 year plan for Vanderbilt, and this is what kind of gets me up in the morning. So Envision Vanderbilt would be me spending, in addition to Priya, the first half of the year meeting with students from all around campus. Not just student leaders, but anybody who might want to come to listening sessions or might want to come to a townhall meeting, and hearing what we think we can do to make our university better and then laying out that plan and giving preference to “we think we can do this in one year, we think we can do this in 3 years.” And then having that conversation with administrators, day in and day out, the entire second semester. And I think having that perspective and getting to work with administration in a hands-on manner and hearing from students and bringing a lot of student leaders to the table is such an amazing opportunity for both Vanderbilt Student Government and myself.

Trey Ellis: I would say I’m most passionate about the Bridging the Gaps initiative. As I stated before, I’m a member of the football team, I’m a member of Greek Life, as well as a member of VSG. And in being a part of these areas of campus, I feel that it would be beneficial and contribute to the feeling of the Vanderbilt community to provide opportunities for people of these different areas to interact that otherwise would not have the opportunity to do so. And, as I said, it would contribute to the Vanderbilt community that they preach to us when we are freshmen because as you know, when we are freshmen we stay on the Commons, but when you become a sophomore, everyone splits up and really the unity that you feel on Commons becomes dismantled and broken and is not as strong as it once was. This Bridging the Gaps initiative would allow that strength of unity and that feeling of a Vanderbilt community and family to return.

Why are you more qualified than the other candidates? What makes you the best candidate?

Will Braithwaite: We get this question a lot because it is pretty clear that we are a level above in terms of qualifications. The reason we are more qualified as VSG president and Vice President is because not only are we roommates, but we are best friends and we think it’s crucial for a president and vice president to be able to work together and almost be able to finish each other’s platform points or thoughts. So that’s something we find really important. The other candidates, we know for a fact, are not rooming together.

Jami Cox: I think, like I said, the biggest part of that is just my involvement, both in VSG and outside of VSG. So internally in VSG, being the attorney general, serving in Senate––I know all the statutes and constitutions are a little weird to people but I love that stuff. I think that’s what it’s all about, right? We’re a student government. But outside of that, not just knowing how to manage VSG as VSG President but knowing what’s going on on campus, being in touch with the student leaders, the activists that are interacting on campus every day.

Trey Ellis: I feel that I’m more qualified and the best candidate because of the experience of playing a sport, especially football. Football is a sport that requires hard work and discipline and remaining determined until the task is done. And I feel that I would easily translate that to getting things done for Vanderbilt University, representing the importance of the image of a Vanderbilt person. For example, Coach Mason preaches about the stigma of a Vanderbilt man. Not just a man that works hard on the field, but off the field. I feel that I would be able to represent such a stigma and image through being president of the University.

Priya Trivedi: I would say Sam and I really complement each other in a unique way, where he has a lot of experience within the organization and I’m coming in as an outsider. And, you know, I’ve been angry and I’ve been frustrated, and that’s what’s motivating me to really challenge what the organization itself does. I don’t want to be complacent in my role as vice president, I don’t want to get used to the swing of things and I’m not going to because I haven’t been in that swing of things yet. So I really want to provide a clear, fresh perspective, and one from a grassroots level, which I think is something that most students feel like they deserve in this organization.   

Assistant News Editor Sam Zern contributed to this report.

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