Last year, Mike Pernick ’10 was elected president of the Wesleyan Student Assembly for the 2008-2009 school year. This year, he is running for the position again with SAC chair Becky Weiss as his running mate. He is currently unopposed.
While juniors have served as WSA president and run for a second year in the past, an uncontested presidential race is rare. According to Estrella Lopez ’07, a former WSA coordinator, the last time this happened was three years ago. Lopez said that two uncontested races within three years is an unusual occurrence for the WSA.
Last year, Pernick ran against current SBC Chair Chris Goy ’09. He won by a two to one margin. Although it is less common for a sophomore to run for WSA president, Pernick felt he had the qualities and commitment necessary to fill the position.
“I ran because I thought that I could make a really positive impact on the Wesleyan community and that I was able to do a good job and commit the time and resources to do the best job possible,” said Pernick. “Anybody that runs for this office needs to believe they are the best person for the job. They need to have the confidence to get results and advocate for the student body. I didn’t think things would be so different one year down the line that I should hold back on running.”
After considering several other candidates, Pernick ultimately decided that Weiss’s commitment and the work she has done in the WSA on the Fountain Avenue incident, fire safety issues, drug and alcohol, and event and ResLife policies made her the best candidate for vice president.
“I decided I wanted to be vice president because I’ve been really involved in the WSA the last few years and it’s important to continue that level of involvement and increase it,” said Weiss. “It seemed like the natural position to go for to continue to work on issues that matter to me and expand the issues I can be personally involved in.”
Both Pernick and Weiss feel that the WSA had a successful year. Pernick believes students now think of the assembly as an organization that speaks with their interests in mind and works to better student life at Wesleyan.
“I think this year was phenomenal,” he said. “This year students finally viewed the WSA as an organization that actually cares and gets results and speaks out on their behalf. And that’s because we do. We’ve been moving in this direction over a couple of years, but we sealed the deal this year. Students realize that we do more than give money and serve as students that meet with administrators. We actually speak out and get results that make the lives of everybody here better.”
When Pernick ran for WSA president his sophomore year, he was not committed to being president for two terms.
“I hadn’t made up my mind,” Pernick said. “Part of it was that I wanted to see how the first year went. I think this year went very well, but there is more work to be done. I think I can contribute a lot with one more year.”
Currently, Pernick and Weiss are running unopposed, though there is still the possibility that someone can be elected as a write-in candidate, which Pernick recalls happening his freshman year. However, he feels that the lack of opposition is an indication that students are satisfied with the work he and Becky have done on the WSA.
“I do take it as a sign that folks like the job Becky and I have done this year,” Pernick said. “We’ve had a policy of being very assertive and freely speaking our mind when an issue comes up. That wasn’t always the case. Students have acted positively knowing their elective leaders would speak out for them. If people have issues with the job we’re doing I would expect them to run against us.”
If Pernick and Weiss are elected, there will be no adjustment period in the beginning of next year, allowing the WSA to begin where they leave off this school year.
“Having a year in experience in the job, there will be no transition,” Pernick said. “Becky too has tremendous experience in the WSA. We can jump in full steam with no delay and without having to spend September learning about the bureaucracy.”
Goals for the WSA next year include working on issues pertaining to campus transportation and budget cuts. Although the WSA has made progress this year in terms of transportation, Pernick and Weiss say there is still work to be done.
This past year, the University contracted buses to Boston and New York during breaks and changed the departure and arrival times of the New Haven Shuttle. The WSA plans to continue working to get a ZipCar to campus as an alternative to students bringing cars to campus, as well as reviewing and making improvements on The Ride.
Weiss said that she would like to continue work on fire safety policy—among other issues, she is looking into instituting a fire safety month. In order to provide more fairness to students while still maintaining the integrity of inspections, it is possible that all initial inspections would occur during this month. If there were no violations, rooms would not be checked again.
Both feel that budget cuts are an important issue that the WSA should continue to follow as the university makes important decisions that will affect student life at Wesleyan.
“I think an even more important issue that we’re just starting to look at is how to handle the budget cuts and financial crisis,” Pernick said. “This year we were talking about cuts and about a structure of how to move forward…Those conversations are important and it is imperative that students have a seat at the table and a meaningful voice on how those decisions are made. That will be a job for me and the next three or four WSA presidents.”