Burton and Shah discuss the success of their campaign, hopes for their administration

On Mar. 20, Frances Burton and Veer Shah defeated Nico Gardner-Serna and Taylor Thompson in the VSG election for the 2019-2020 school year


Burton and Shah rejoice after their victory was announced. (Photo by Hunter Long)

Scarlett Bach

The Hustler sat down with President-Elect Frances Burton and Vice President-Elect Veer Shah March 24 to discuss their victory in the Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) election for the 2019-2020 school year, as well as their hopes for both their administration and the university going forward.

Four days earlier, Burton and Shah defeated Nico Gardner-Serna and Taylor Thompson by an almost 400 vote margin of victory, garnering a total of 1,578 student votes.

“I’m really excited right now. It still feels surreal, and it’s been a whirlwind last few days of setting up meetings,” Burton said. “But we’re just taking it day-by-day, and starting to hopefully get things in motion for the next couple weeks and next year.”

Shah echoed his running mate’s enthusiasm for the job and year ahead, and highlighted the rapidity of their transitions into the positions.

“It’s interesting because we really jumped straight into the role,” Shah said. “It’s a great feeling though because we can already get a sense of the type of work we’re going to be able to do next year and start to implement some of our ideas.”

Burton and Shah, who ran with the slogan, “Let’s Go,” said their campaign was successful because of its casual and straightforward emphasis.

“One thing we really tried to focus on during our campaign was making our messaging very accessible,” Burton said. “We wanted to keep all our platform points to a single sentence, and I think that succinctness helped us reach a lot of people who haven’t previously been engaged in VSG campaigns.”

Shah agreed, and added that the approachability factor, as well as the visibility of their campaign, were crucial in contributing to its success.

“We were very present, not just on social media and through our posters and materials, but also in terms of how we physically positioned ourselves on campus,” Shah said. “We would give out our numbers and encourage people to reach out and talk to us. We really wanted to step away from the formality of campaigns and just come off as normal members of the student body.”

One of their objectives for next year is to abandon the notion of VSG as a distinct entity, withdrawn from the student body, and set a precedent for this integrability across campus.

VP-elect Veer Shah reacts to the news of his and Burton’s 400 vote win over competitors in VSG election. (Photo by Hunter Long)

In terms of their first orders of business post-election, Burton and Shah are currently working on networking and active recruitment, setting up contacts across campus, and reaching out to students and organizations that have been historically underrepresented by VSG, with the aim of building a team that is more inclusive of the whole student body.

According to Burton, the pair hopes to address issues on which VSG hasn’t focused in the past, such as health and safety, and environmental awareness, both of which were emphases of their campaign platform. To carry out these missions, they are working to implement Green Dot training into the CommonVU orientation for the class of 2023, as well as institute pre-orientation modules that promote cultural competency.

Burton and Shah are also in the initial stages of developing a campus wellness app that compiles all mental and physical health resources, such as appointment availability at the University Counseling Center or Grins nutritional information, into one portal.  

In addition to these first steps as the newly elected student leaders, Burton and Shah also discussed their goal to improve the culture of VSG, a shift in mindset that they hope will have significant impacts on the broader Vanderbilt community as well.

“When things go wrong or issues arise, I hope VSG can be a body students go to, to actually feel that something will get done for them,” Burton said. “If you have a passionate VSG, that really extends to the culture of school, and I think that’s one of the ways we can work from the inside out to make Vanderbilt a better place.”