Meet the incoming VSG president and vice president

Following their satirical campaign, VSG President-Elect Sam Sliman and Vice President-Elect Kendelle Grubbs — both juniors — told The Hustler about their plans to restructure Vanderbilt Student Government.

Sam Sliman and Kendelle Grubbs, VSG President-elect and Vice President-elect, in Stevenson Hall, as photographed on April 5, 2023. (Hustler Staff/Noah Weitzel)

Noah Weitzel

Sam Sliman and Kendelle Grubbs, VSG President-elect and Vice President-elect, in Stevenson Hall, as photographed on April 5, 2023. (Hustler Staff/Noah Weitzel)

Julia Tilton and Noah Weitzel

VSG President-Elect Sam Sliman and Vice President-Elect Kendelle Grubbs — both juniors — discussed their plans for the upcoming year with The Hustler, including dissolving VSG and drafting a new constitution. 

Throughout the conversation, Sliman and Grubbs answered questions ranging from how they will interact with the student body while in office to explaining their most irrational fears and dream superpowers. 

The Hustler: What is one of your first priorities in office?

Sliman: The first thing we are going to do when we get into office is make the budget public. It has been something we feel very passionate about. For the last couple of years, students have had no clue where that money has been going. We want to get out of that ambiguity. We feel like the students have a right to know – for the org with the largest amount of money – where that money is going. We want to be more transparent so that there’s accountability.

A big part of your campaign platform was to ‘dissolve VSG.’ What are your plans to do so?

Sliman: I recently met with the student who led the efforts to dissolve Harvard student government, and we talked for a while about his whole philosophy behind it and how he made it happen. Then, we talked about how it relates to our ideas about what a student government should look like. At the end of the day, a student government is not a government. It has no legislative power. It cannot pass laws. I think it is time we stop pretending like it is one. There is no reason for us to have a three-branch system to emulate the American government or all of the unnecessary bureaucracy and committees. 

After having a lot of these conversations, Kendelle and I have one core vision. A student government should serve to do two things: It should serve as a communication channel between the students in the administration, and it should allocate its budget. Anything more than that is extraneous, and anything less than that is a failure. 

We want to design a system where the student government is purely focused on doing those two things. A lot of the specifics of that are going to arise from our conversations with current members of VSG and students. Our goal is to draft an entirely new Constitution that brings things down to basically just a Senate and committees to deal with specific, actionable tasks. Instead of having vague committees that preside over an issue over years, we will have specific people selected from the Senate to work on a particular issue until it is either complete or we decide it cannot be completed, and then that committee is dissolved. 

Our hope is that this structure will serve to accomplish those two goals at every step of the way, while eliminating all of the unnecessary spending on internal events and the massive amount of bureaucracy that keeps things from actually getting done.

How do you plan to listen to student voices once in office?

Grubbs: A big thing we want to do is set up more coffee chats and conversations with orgs on campus. For example, we could have a sign-up list, and any MLC org that wants to speak with us could sign up. We would talk to them to get to know what they need. Furthermore, if there are any students or faculty that need to have conversations with us, just shoot us an email or DM, and we will be there for you.

Sliman: Another plan is one of the amendments that Ari was actually running alongside this year: to change the VSG website to a petition-style forum where students can propose issues and sign them, with the most popular ones floating to the top where students and VSG can see them. We want to expand upon that idea and use that same sort of method as accountability for what VSG is doing. Say an issue on the forum gets really popular, the students are really invested in it and VSG starts to work on it. There would be a place where you can see a concrete list of steps that have been taken on that issue. That way, students can actually see – even if there are no immediate results – that work is being done. We hear the critique constantly of VSG that they get nothing done. For students to be able to see a list of things, like the number of times VSG has talked to administration — what we talked about, what we got done, what the obstacles are at this point — would go a long way toward that two-way communication.

So far, your use of satire has resonated with the student body. What are your plans for incorporating satire into your positions now that you’ve been elected?

Sliman: I want to do weekly fireside chats. I think that’d be fun and a good way for the student body to hear about what’s going on in an entertaining way. In general, being able to function as a figure doing those types of things makes it easier for people to express their ideas and be comfortable talking to us and knowing that we have their best interests at heart. I think doing a lot of stuff like that to show our relationship with the students really helps them understand that we’re here to serve them. This is not a self-serving, power-grab, career move. 

Grubbs: Yeah, I think we are a funny bunch. We definitely want to bring a little bit of humor into VSG, and, working at a satire newspaper, our jobs have been to look at what’s going on on campus and put a humorous spin on it, or make it so absurd that it’s satire. Now that we’re in these positions, I think we can look at the things that are being passed and the things that we’re doing and be like, ‘Okay, so when we have our Wednesday meetings at the Slant, would we write a headline about what we’re doing right now? Would someone make a joke out of us right now?’ Thinking through that lens to make sure that things that we are doing are reflective of what the students want, instead of doing things that are only self-serving, is how we are going to use our satire lens.

What are you most excited about as incoming VSG leaders?

Sliman: I am really, really excited about trying to dissolve the government — I think that would be so incredible if we manage to do it. Every person I have talked to about governments dissolving — such as at Harvard and Virginia Tech — has said it went really well and resulted in massive improvements. To be able to see that happen would just make me really happy.

Grubbs: I’m most excited that I now have a position where I get to know so many people on campus and hopefully help a lot of people and hear what people want, and make Vanderbilt a little bit more comfortable for a lot more people. If we have the power to do that with VSG, I hope that many people can feel like our administration did something, and that something changed for them.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Grubbs: Making it through Vanderbilt without accidentally overdosing on Suzie’s espresso.

What is your hottest take?

Sliman: I think that Bigfoot is real. He’s just really blurry.

What superpower do you want?

Grubbs: I want time control because I am very bad at showing up to things on time.

What is an unusual skill you have?

Sliman: I can always tell exactly how much someone likes The Catcher in the Rye.

What is your most irrational fear?

Sliman: Hard interview questions.

What is your Randwich order?

Grubbs: Pretzel bun, turkey, bacon, cheddar, provolone, basil pesto and spicy mustard. 

Right Twix or left Twix?

Grubbs: I don’t believe in bipartisanship, so none.

What is your least favorite fruit?

Grubbs: I gotta go with a hot take and say mango.

What is the best place to cry on campus?

Sliman: Definitely your professor’s office hours to gain their sympathy.