This year’s campaigns for VSG President and Vice President are Veer Shah and Shun Ahmed, Syed Rahman and Bryce Collings, Jared Bauman and Jake Rome and James Cannon and Parker Byers. VSG primary elections will now take place March 19 through March 20, a week after the original scheduled date. The primary election will now take place from March 19 at 8 a.m. through March 20 at 12 p.m. The general election will take place from March 24 at 8 a.m. through March 25 at 12 p.m.
Rahman and Collings both currently serve as VSG senators, for Moore College and Hank House respectively. Their platform proposes measures in five areas–financial responsibility, sustainability, student advocacy, health and wellness, and transparency–and draws upon the feedback both Rahman and Collings heard during their time on VSG, Rahman said.
“The whole concern of transparency started my sophomore year when I was getting signatures for a petition about VSG. And people were signing it and they were just giving me these comments, like ‘What does VSG even do?’” Rahman said.
Rahman, a junior, believes students’ low engagement with VSG is a result of VSG’s lack of transparency.
“They don’t really know what’s transpiring behind closed-door meetings. And that’s something I really want to fight: this narrative that we do things behind closed doors,” Rahman said.
But when Rahman introduced a bill last month to open up cabinet and community meetings to the public, the current VSG president, vice president and chief of staff opposed it, even when he conceded to include certain privacy caveats, Rahman said.
Collings, a first year, emphasized VSG’s duty to help bridge the knowledge gap for first years coming into Vanderbilt.
“If you were to ask me three months ago, ‘Where is the UCC?’ I wouldn’t have known,” Collings said. “I would say the biggest thing that I know Syed and I agree on what VSG should be doing is making sure that students know the resources that are available.”
Coming into the campaign, neither Bauman nor Rome have previously been involved in VSG. On campus, Bauman served on the executive board of the Vanderbilt Radio Station, as well as president and vice president of various Hillel organizations. Rome served as vice president of the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha and a leader on the service organization Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science. This experience sets their platform apart from others, Rome said.
“We took our knowledge of what we knew students wanted, what students complained about the most, and put that into the main parts of our platform. We’re running more of a students-based campaign,” Rome said.
Their platform consists of four proposals: free printing, free laundry services, free textbooks and Campus Dining reform. VSG should channel its power to implement tangible changes for students in the short-term, Bauman said.
“I think VSG has too wide of a vision too often. People think they’re going to solve everything. They’re going to solve mental health by giving us apps. They’re going to solve climate change by making us carbon neutral by 2050,” Bauman said. “And those are great things; those are great resources, and if they can be done, they should be done to benefit students. But our idea is, what good is carbon neutrality by 2050 if we don’t have financial inclusivity in 2020?”
If elected, both promise to bring new perspective to VSG.
“You sometimes need people outside the system to show the system what it needs to be doing,” Bauman said. “VSG does great things, as I said, but when you get the same people that are serving in the same jobs and they just get a promotion, there’s no fresh ideas.”
Rome emphasizes that their campaign is open to suggestions from others.
“Everything that we stand for is stuff that people, several people, not just an individual here and there, has brought up to us before,” Rome said. “We’re open to any ideas that anyone has, and we just want to be approachable candidates.”
Cannon distinguishes their platform from others by not taking themselves as seriously.
“We’re trying to have a lighthearted campaign,” Cannon said. “If people want to vote for us, they can.”
The junior highlights nine key points as the foundation of the platform. Three components of the platform involve adding new businesses to the Commodore Card: PF Chang’s, a movie theater and Uber. Uber ended its campus card program in 2018. In addition, Cannon and Byers would like to add bubble tea and soft-serve ice cream machines to on-campus dining locations like Rand and Commons.
The platform also includes adding paper towels to all bathrooms on campus and helping students have access to high-quality water bottles. Final points include upgrades to Alumni Gym in the way of increasing the number and maximum weight of free weights there and fireside chats inspired by those of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Shah and Ahmed introduce several years of VSG experience to their ticket. Shah was previously a member of the Community Building, International Outreach and Diversity Committee before serving as VSG vice president this year. Ahmed currently serves as the vice chair of the Community Building, International Outreach and Diversity Committee.
Beyond their experience, Shah and Ahmed identify their history of impact and their diverse perspectives as factors that distinguish them from other candidates. Shah included the implementation of the Graduate School Equity Fund, the campus-wide elimination of plastic water bottles, and the reintroduction of Chef James bistro, among others, as evidence of the success of this year’s administration.
“I think that really distinguishes us, the tangibility and actually getting things done and not just saying we’re gonna get things done,” Shah said.
Shah and Ahmed are running on the platform of being a Transparent, Equitable, Accountable, and Mindful TEAM. According to their TEAM platform, Shah and Ahmed aim to integrate more student voices into VSG policymaking, to grow Vanderbilt’s resources for supporting minority and financially disadvantaged students and to ensure that Vanderbilt meets its students financial and wellness needs.
Shah and Ahmed intend to fulfill these goals through prospective initiatives including the implementation of VSG office hours for student feedback, the addition of Lyft rideshare fees to the Commodore Card, the creation of an affordability guide listing financial resources available to students, and the expansion of course evaluations to resemble Rate my Professors.
Shah and Ahmed’s platform also emphasizes environmental sustainability, a focus which extends from Shah and current VSG president Frances Burton’s “Let’s Go” campaign last year. Shah aims to expand the current administration’s pop-up thrift store project to include electronics, bedding and furniture and to introduce a textbook drive for students to donate and to obtain used textbooks.
Running on the slogan “Let’s Keep Going,” Shah and Ahmed aspire to continue and to grow upon the success of the current VSG administration.
“I really want to build upon the momentum that I’ve extensively worked on creating and then push that to new limits with Shun,” Shah said.