Meet the 2023 VSG presidential and vice presidential candidates

The Hustler spoke to this year’s three tickets: junior Ari Sasson with junior Shreya Gupta, junior Samuel Sliman with junior Kendelle Grubbs and junior Macy Su with sophomore Lonnie Smith.

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Barrie Barto

The Hustler moderated a debate for the 2023 VSG election, as photographed on March 21, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

Duaa Faquih and Zach Joseph

Three pairs of students are campaigning in the 2023 VSG election for student body president and vice president. Campaigning began on March 20 and voting is scheduled to begin on March 27 at 8 a.m. CDT and close on March 29 at 12 p.m. CDT. 

The tickets for president and vice president are, respectively, juniors Ari Sasson and Shreya Gupta, juniors Samuel Sliman and Kendelle Grubbs and junior Macy Su and sophomore Lonnie Smith.

Regarding the content of the different candidates’ platforms, VSG Elections Commission Chair Matthew Sohn, a senior, said there are very few regulations. 

“Other than a word limit, there aren’t tight regulations on the candidates’ platforms. As for what counts as a ‘serious plan’ versus a ‘joke,’ the voters will ultimately decide that question,” Sohn said.

Sohn said that, so far, no major campaign violations have occurred among the three tickets. 

I would say the candidates are managing well at this point in time,” Sohn said. 

When asked for comment, current VSG president Amisha Mittal said that she wished all the candidates good luck and hopes that everyone lets their voices be heard during the election process. 

Sasson/Gupta platform

The Sasson/Gupta platform focuses on four core principles: mobility, opportunity, representation and equity, combining into the slogan “M.O.R.E.” Some examples of these different principles include several changes to Vandy Vans and mobility rides, lowering barriers for attaining accommodations on campus, allocating $100,000 to support student organizations not affiliated with VSG and subsidizing more money for students to apply to graduate and professional schools.

Sasson currently serves as VSG vice president, while Gupta serves as the VSG diversity and inclusion committee chair. 

Sasson and Gupta said they are running to expand upon the current VSG administration’s work. They cited the examples of work they want to expand, such as Gupta’s D&I work in creating the “Flavors of Inclusion” initiative, which encourages organizations to cater food from minority-owned businesses through financial incentives with VSG, and Sasson’s support of establishing a tailgate open all behind Branscomb on April 1.

One example of an initiative in VSG that Sasson and Gupta would hope to improve upon is the Student Activism Fund, which VSG Senate created in October 2022. They also hope to provide the student body “MORE” via offering free coffee in dorms and creating a new committee to aid student activist groups.

“This past year in VSG, we’ve created a $5,000 Student Activism Fund which has administered upwards of $3,000 in funds to reduce financial barriers to student activism,” Sasson and Gupta said in a joint email to The Hustler. “We want to use the lessons from our work last year to do MORE.”

Sasson said that, if elected, he would bring knowledge about VSG and the university administration’s capabilities to his role.

“I know what is and isn’t possible for admin to do, and we created a platform that will succeed in making Vanderbilt a better place for its students,” Sasson said in an email to The Hustler. 

Gupta cited her experiences with different organizations on campus as examples of how she would be an effective vice president, if elected.

“Prior to the 2022-2023 school year, I met with the leaders of multiple MLC and SCSJI organizations to support my role as incoming D&I Chair and use the committee to serve the needs of these groups,” Gupta said. “These relationships have continued beyond these initial meetings and have allowed me to build relationships with all different kinds of students.”

Another initiative the pair hopes to implement is to change VSG’s website to include an open form functionality where students can bring ideas and sign onto petitions about what they hope VSG will address. They explained that this change aligns with their goal of maintaining open communication with the student body.

“The website will allow students to bring their ideas and petition for changes on campus, and we will require VSG to openly respond to and work on these ideas, increasing the say students have on campus and making transparency a main value of VSG,” Sasson and Gupta said.

Sasson and Gupta said they want to direct the focus of VSG back to students and their needs. 

“We hope to improve campus by realigning VSG to center around students. VSG has gotten out of the reach of students, and we want to return it to the student body,” Sasson and Gupta said.

Sliman/Grubbs platform 

The Sliman/Grubbs platform focuses on campus reform, Vanderbilt first and investing in new technology. It includes proposals such as dissolving VSG, replacing tenured professors with ChatGPT and sending a woman to the moon by 2025. Sliman and Grubbs acknowledged in a debate moderated by The Hustler that these parts of the platform are all satire. Their platform also has a fourth category of “real things” with proposals such as supporting Swipes For a Cause, regulating TA pay across majors and extending Vandy Van hours from 1 a.m to 3 a.m. CDT.

Sliman and Grubbs are not involved in the current VSG administration, but Sliman claimed he is VSG’s “shadow president” in a message sent to The Hustler. 

“Essentially, I’m the puppetmaster who controls everything behind the scenes,” Silman said. Sliman’s name does not appear anywhere on the VSG website and is not listed as holding any position. Grubbs later said this comment was a “joke.”

“Pretty much all of our answers are satire,” Grubbs said in a message to The Hustler.

The pair said their candidacy is based on being the “lessest of three evils.”

“We’ve reached a point where the entire student body is so disillusioned with VSG that we think they might just vote for us,” Sliman and Grubbs said in a joint message to The Hustler. 

Sliman and Grubbs explained that, if elected, one of their main goals would be to dissolve VSG altogether. 

“Sure, putting a woman on the moon by 2025 would be nice, and we’d all love to have lunch in the newly renamed Ayn Rand hall, but only destroying VSG entirely will free us from the bureaucratic purgatory we are trapped in at Vandy,” Sliman and Grubbs said. 

Sliman and Grubbs mentioned building a wall between Vanderbilt and Belmont University and making Belmont pay for it. Their platform also discusses replacing VUPD officers with police dogs to form “VUPAWD.” 

In their proposal, Sliman and Grubbs refer to Belmont students as “cretins” and say they will consider “jailing” athletes for their usage of electric scooters around campus. However, during the debate moderated by The Hustler, Sliman made it clear that these parts of the platform were a joke and not meant to be taken seriously.

Su/Smith platform

The Su/Smith platform covers five principles: sustainability, equity, resources, voice and experience, which spell out their slogan “S.E.R.V.E.” Their proposals include transitioning Vandy Vans to electric fuel, further developing relationships with diverse communities on campus through co-sponsoring events and revamping the housing process to ensure it is more accessible.

Su currently serves as VSG chief of staff, while Smith serves as VSG director of active citizenship and service. 

In an email to The Hustler, Su and Smith said their main goal is improving the overall well-being of students.

“Each point on our platform is incredibly important and we want to give equal priority to each of them,” Su and Smith said. “That being said, we know it’s not possible to do everything at once, and what’s most important to us is the health and well-being of the student body.” 

They added that one of their primary goals, if elected, would be to incorporate mandatory mental health days in course syllabi and establish on-call therapists. 

“It’s VSG’s job to support and take care of students in any capacity, especially mental health and wellbeing,” Su and Smith said. 

Su and Smith said they want to take the focus away from VSG itself and invest in other organizations. They stated that they aim to accomplish this goal through increased communication with the student body and other on-campus organizations.

“There’s been a lot of emphasis on our own organization this past year when we should be putting just as much focus on other organizations, communities and organizations that we are supporting, if not more,” Su and Smith said.

Sasson agreed with Su and Smith’s point about internal emphasis in VSG, considering that the VSG budget has $27,400 designated for internal use only. He believes that the role of a student government should be to devote funds to the student body, which he wants to do if elected as president.

“If you look at our mission statement, it’s all supposed to be about giving back to the Vanderbilt community. And I think that like, I mean, just a list of numbers on a page says a lot about the priorities of an organization,” Sasson said. “So a bunch of the initiatives that Shreya and I have are literally targeted at reallocating the budget to be more student-friendly.”

Su and Smith said, if elected, they would work to listen to students throughout their time in office but not “over promise.” 

“We are ensuring that we are not falling into the trap of overpromising and under delivering. If anything, we want to promise and overdeliver,” Su and Smith said. 

Campaign guidelines

VSG Elections Commission Chair Matthew Sohn, a senior, said one of the major campaign guidelines is one that prohibits “negative campaigning,” citing the VSG elections rules packet

“Campaigns and individual candidates will not be held responsible for the negative campaigning of supporters. However, any form of negative campaigning by candidates will not be tolerated. Any negative campaigning found by the Elections Commission will be treated as a Major Violation,” the packet reads.