The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

VSG Senate election results released, vacant seats remain

Vacant seats remain on the Senate for the Peabody College, School of Engineering, third-year and fourth-year positions.
sign that says vote here in red with an arrow
Claire Barnett
Voting sign on Election Day, as photographed on Nov. 6, 2018. (Hustler Multimedia/Claire Barnett)

VSG Senate Election results were released in an email sent to students by the Elections Commission Chair, Jordyn Perry, on Sept. 15. The email elaborated that multiple vacant seats remain in the Senate due to a lack of applications. Student Body President and Vice President Hannah Bruns and Kayla Prowell did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment about the vacancies.

vsg chart of senate winners
Results for the 2021 VSG Senate election. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

“The vacant seats represent the Peabody College of Education and Human Development, the School of Engineering, Third-year, and Fourth-year constituencies,” the email reads. 

To fill these empty seats, VSG stated that there will be another “unique” application process, in which students can apply for a Senate seat without campaigning. This written application closed on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 12 p.m. CDT. Last year’s Senate election left no seats empty. 

The Hustler met with six of the newly elected senators including Ben Carlow, David Mailman, Hananeel Morinville, Ari Sasson, Bowan Talbot and Angela Yan. Rahan Arasteh, Michael Chen, Makala Desargent, Matt Geleta, Ian Stripling Jenson, Deveandre Johnson, Gabby Jones, Tae Kim, Yihan Li, Zack Maaieh, Ethan Thorpe, Zev Sernik and Garfield Tingyu Zhang were unable to respond to questions at this time. 

Mailman, a second-year senator, urges students to apply for these remaining Senate positions. 

“If you think you can bring a different perspective to VSG that would help hold the entire organization accountable and make sure it’s an upright, ethical organization as well as helping keep the administration accountable to the student body, please [apply],” Mailman said. “We need those perspectives and we need people of different backgrounds to be on VSG.”

An update on this year’s election process was sent in an email to students on Sept. 13 prior to the commencement of voting. The email said that students could vote for their top five choices for class senators, but only their favorite candidate for academic college and transfer races (if applicable).  Last year’s election also marked a new change in the election process, as it was the first year in which senators were elected based on class versus residential hall—a shift that remained in place this year.

The VSG rules about negative campaigning also changed this year. In the Sept. 5 Senate Information Session, Elections Commissioner Jordyn Perry mentioned how any attack on a candidate’s character was a violation in past years. This stipulation now states that any campaigning against an opponent that is based on inaccurate information is not allowed.

“Something that may come off as negative but is rooted in something factual is not negative campaigning,” Perry said.

Senators’ goals for Campus Dining 

Many of this year’s elected senators, such as Carlow, Johnson, Kim and Maaieh, ran on platforms that promised improved dining and amenities on campus. Talbot additionally mentioned work he believes needs to be done to improve working conditions for dining employees.

“We need to pressure Vanderbilt to get back to pre-COVID dining,” Talbot said. “Vanderbilt definitely has to work on providing livable wages for their workers. “We don’t want people to choose between providing for their families and working at Vanderbilt.”

Mailman echoed Talbot’s thoughts about Campus Dining. He spoke about how he plans to bring about changes as a second-year senator. 

“I will try to find ways to work with our local worker’s union,” Mailman said. “If we want to fix the dining issue, I think a key part of that is making sure that the staff who are essential to that job—the dining workers, the janitors, etcJO—are paid properly and appreciated properly by this university.”

Abolish Greek Life movement

Senators like Yan and Mailman support the Abolish Greek Life (AGL) movement. 

“Greek Life currently holds so much power on Vandy’s campus that if you’re not a part of Greek Life, you’re just excluded,” Yan said. “I will do everything in my power as a Senator to work with them [AGL] and draft bills to begin the process of dismantling Greek Life on campus.” 

Other senators, like Arasteh, support reallocating Greek spaces. Mailman similarly believes that AGL would provide spaces for other organizations in need.

“West End right now has a plethora of physical spaces and well-updated buildings that quite frankly I think should be going to organizations that help support historically marginalized identities,” Mailman said. 

Yan expressed similar concerns about the lack of meeting spaces for issue minority groups on campus.

“First-generation, low-income students don’t even have any permanent office space on campus,” Yan said.

Yan stated that she believes supporting AGL and divestment from fossil fuels are steps to avoiding the strife that characterized the 2020 student body election. 

“Those movements are working towards abolishing the current power systems that allow those tensions to flare up in last year’s presidential election,” Yan said.

The platforms of the other candidates did not mention Greek Life.

Communication with the student body

Many senators encouraged students to get involved in VSG policy-making and meet with them to express their concerns.

“We can’t do our jobs properly if we don’t know what the student body wants,” Talbot said.“We’re here to represent you.”

All of the senators that The Hustler interviewed mentioned how they will actively be working throughout their terms to avoid the same tensions and turmoil of last year’s VSG student body election. Morinville and Sasson expressed similar sentiments, emphasizing the importance of open communication within VSG and with the student body. 

“I plan to work constructively with all my fellow senators, leverage other people’s opinions and make sure that resolutions have everyone’s voices,” Sasson said. 

Additional platform points

Senators mentioned their propositions to otherwise improve student life at Vanderbilt. Sasson, a sophomore senator, said he will strive to increase the transportation methods available to students, both on campus and into greater Nashville, like a Vandy Van stop on Broadway Ave.

Addressing campus debates such as divestment from fossil fuels is also part of Arasteh, Maaieh and Yan’s plans for Vanderbilt.

“Just going off of pure economics, Vanderbilt needs to divest because our endowment is losing money,” Talbot said. “The world is moving towards green solutions.”

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About the Contributors
Claire Barnett, Former Multimedia Director
Emery Little
Emery Little, Former Social Media Director
Emery Little (‘22) is from Birmingham, AL. She majored in communication of science and technology and Spanish. In her free time, she loves to design graphics, follow tech news and run her photography business. She can be reached at [email protected].
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