NYU student gov’t proposes popular chair elections

The university’s student government deliberated its upcoming chair election and proposed changes to future elections on Thursday, March 23. 


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

(Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Bruna Horvath, Deputy News Editor

Each year, one student serves as the chairperson of NYU’s student government, becoming the primary representative for the university’s 50,000 students. NYU’s Student Government Assembly discussed its upcoming internal election to choose a new chair — which is to be held on April 13 — at its biweekly meeting, and proposed future election reforms. 

Ron Hall, the current student government chair, said that the chair’s responsibilities include overseeing all student government initiatives and committees, acting as a liaison between students and administration, and addressing the needs of all students. Most students recognize Hall from his monthly emails detailing updates on SGA initiatives and events. 

As chair, Hall was the only student on the presidential search committee — the body in charge of choosing Linda Mills as NYU’s next president. He was responsible for representing the student body in the selection process. The chair is also the student representative on the Executive Committee of the University Senate, alongside representatives from various faculty groups and the university president.

Hall also talked about the structure of this year’s chair election, which will begin with candidates sharing their opening statements, followed by a five-minute question-and-answer portion for each. After the first section, SGA members will have a closed-door deliberation on who will serve as the next chair.

Ryan Carney, a senator representing the Liberal Studies program, and JiJi Lee, a senator at-large representing students experiencing food insecurity and women of color, both expressed interest in applying for the role during the meeting.

During the meeting, the SGA’s Chair Election Reform Committee discussed the results of a survey of over 2,500 students, created to deliberate changes to future election cycles. The survey found that 51.4% of students wanted a popular election, in which all NYU students get a vote, while 48.6% wanted an indirect election — the student government’s current method — in which the chair would be determined by student government representatives. 

Representatives Tina Panda and Christina Beck, who together lead the Chair Election Reform Committee, talked about how past chair elections have been conducted. They also compared NYU’s election process to those of other universities, and noted that institutions such as Columbia University and Fordham University elect their representatives by a popular vote.

Panda and Beck proposed a solution that would incorporate a two-round process. The first would include a preliminary vote, in which SGA voting members would vote “Yes” or “No” for each candidate running for chair. Each candidate would need to have 51% of the preliminary vote to qualify for the second round of the elections, which would be a popular, universitywide, online election, open to all students.

SGA representatives expressed concern about representation in future election processes. Hall considered ways that future chair elections could more accurately reflect and represent the rest of the student government if the leaders were to continue to be elected indirectly. 

“Forty-eight people selecting a person like myself — I’m in meetings with the chair of the board, I’m in meetings with Andrew Hamilton, I’m representing 60,000 plus people, and whether we feel that 48 people captures that, I think, is really the question,” Hall said.

Hall, who has occupied the role of student government chair since May of last year, said he is grateful for his time in the position, and talked about how he feels as his tenure comes to a close. 

“This has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve done at NYU, and I don’t regret taking it, but it’s also something I could never foresee myself doing again — it tears you apart in so many ways,” Hall said. “This team this year has just been incredible across the board. There is so much genuine passion and desire, and the team is who I’m grateful for.”

Contact Bruna Horvath at [email protected]