Student gov’t elects new vice-chair at first spring meeting

During its latest meeting, the Student Government Assembly quarreled over a resolution to elect the SGA chair through a student body vote and bid farewell to Presidents Council Vice-Chair Anthony Cruz.

The+latest+Student+Government+Assembly+meeting+was+held+Jan.+27.+They+debated+on+two+resolutions.+%28Photo+by+Jorene+He%2C+Staff+Illustration+by+Edward+Franco%29

The latest Student Government Assembly meeting was held Jan. 27. They debated on two resolutions. (Photo by Jorene He, Staff Illustration by Edward Franco)

Alina Hollister, Contributing Writer

NYU’s student government held its first meeting of the spring semester on Thursday, Jan. 27, during which members elected CAS junior Ron Hall as the new Presidents Council Vice-Chair and discussed a resolution to elect the Student Government Assembly chair by a majority vote among the student body.

The SGA also mentioned plans to distribute masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to the university community at the Kimmel Center for University Life on Tuesday, Feb. 1, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and at 6 MetroTech Center on Wednesday, Feb. 3, between noon and 3 p.m.

Student government deliberates election of SGA chair by student vote

The chair, who oversees the student government and communicates with the NYU administration, is currently elected by voting members of the SGA. A resolution to elect the chair through a student body vote was introduced by Shawn Thibault, senator of the NYU School of Law and chair of the Organization and Governance Committee, who helped write the proposal over winter break. He argued that the change would increase accountability of the student government to the student body.

“What we’re trying to highlight here is to show the levels removing the student body from the selection of the chair,” Thibault said. “If we’re going to partake in the representative democracy that the SGA mission outlines, we need to be proactive about updating and improving the procedures and rules that make our system democratic in the first place.” 

The resolution cites a poll conducted by the committee in February 2020, which surveyed NYU students about their preferred method of electing the SGA chairperson. Of the over 500 students sampled, 62.4% preferred popular elections.  

The poll also found that 67% of students were unfamiliar with the student government. Christopher Van Demark, senator of the Graduate School of Arts and Science and former chair of the Organization and Governance Committee, expressed concerns about how the result will impact future elections.

“How can we expect a student body that is eminently unfamiliar with the Student Government Assembly and our role at NYU to vote for a chair?” Van Demark said. “Direct democracy is great when voters are informed, but in this instance, we’re asking a resoundingly uninformed public to directly elect our most powerful official. I personally think that that’s a recipe for disaster.” 

Van Demark added that the proposed voting process would isolate students who are not involved in university politics. As a Ph.D. student, he said there is also a disadvantage for graduate students who are not as engaged with their undergraduate peers.

Anthony Cruz, former vice-chair of the executive committee, said he fully supports the resolution and believes popular elections will incentivize the student body to stay updated with student government decisions and ensure that all students are fairly represented.

After a debate regarding the resolution, the student government tabled it until the next meeting on Feb. 3.

Student government appoints new presidents council vice-chair

CAS junior Ron Hall was elected by the SGA to serve on the executive committee as the vice-chair of the Presidents Council. He talked about his plan to manage the position alongside his current roles as CAS senator and chair of the All-University Events Committee.

“I’m not here to dictate to the presidents, ‘This is what you need to do,’” Hall said. “It’s me serving a facilitator role and just doing what I can to help them with their projects and their initiative. Being in those two other roles allows me to really have a whole lens of all the happenings and to help people as best I can.”

Cruz served his last day as vice-chair on Jan. 27, and helped propose three resolutions during his time on the council — a resolution on antiracism and justice, a resolution on holistic representation on NYU’s board of trustees, and the resolution on student notice and comment. He also helped write a resolution to address financial burdens of students, which demanded that students facing financial difficulties have tuition increases frozen and financial aid packages raised proportionally. 

“Throughout my time at NYU, my mission, and I think our mission collectively, has always been to empower students,” Cruz said. “This work, our work is beyond just me, beyond just one member of SGA. So my parting advice to you all is to think about how our work can form part of that larger picture of what it means to be a student at NYU. And how you can contribute to that larger ideal in the short time we have in this body.”

Contact Alina Hollister at [email protected]