The student body voted, and the results are in. The new President and Vice President of the Wesleyan Student Association (WSA) are Rebecca Hutman ’17 and Nila Ravi ’18, respectively. For the 2016-17 academic year, these seasoned WSA veterans will lead the student body, aiming to move the WSA and the University forward by continuing what works and implementing new policies to fix what doesn’t.
Hutman, a CSS major also working toward certificates in Middle Eastern Studies and International Relations, sought the WSA presidency to improve discourse and action at every level.
“I ran for this position because I have seen that the WSA can amplify students’ concerns to the Administration,” Hutman wrote in an email to The Argus. “When our campus finds itself divided, the WSA can be a space to foster conversation, understanding, and generate practical solutions. I ran to ensure that the WSA continues to fulfill these two purposes.”
Ravi, a Government major who is involved in Shakti, also seeks to ensure that the WSA remains supportive and responsive to students’ needs.
“I have been on the WSA since my freshman year, and have seen it undergo many positive changes,” Ravi wrote in an email to The Argus. “I want to ensure that the WSA continues moving in the right direction by bringing more voices to the table in order to enact change that students see and feel. I know that Wesleyan is its best when everyone feels listened to and supported. I ran because I believe I have the concrete plans, ideas, and leadership skills to connect students to one another, in order to realize our collective power.”
Both Hutman and Ravi have extensive experience as WSA Senators and members of various committees. This past year, Ravi served as the chair of the Student Life Committee, holding the position of Student Life Coordinator on the 2015-16 leadership board.
“I completed several of my own projects while managing eleven committee members as well,” Ravi wrote. “This was challenging at times but ultimately overwhelmingly rewarding. Through this position I learned about the capabilities and limitations of the WSA as a whole—I have seen what the WSA does well and where it needs work, and I hope as Vice President I’ll be able to put this knowledge to productive use.”
Hutman, also a WSA member since she began at the University, served as chair of the Academic Affairs Committee as a sophomore. The experience provided her an opportunity to see the ways in which the WSA can serve as a useful resource to the entirety of the student body.
“While on the assembly, I saw that the WSA can facilitate a tremendous amount of progress, but in order to do so we need to actively reach out to students all across campus,” Hutman wrote. “The WSA must ensure that students from historically marginalized communities feel safe, welcome, included, and respected. The assembly has has become much more inclusive and I want to ensure that progress continues.”
Additionally, in terms of moving forward, Hutman hopes to continue the process of learning and eliminating redundancy. In the past, she observed that many projects are re-introduced every year and run into the same obstacles.
“I ran to make sure that we’re learning from our past—our problems and our progress—so that the WSA advocates student interests in effective and innovative ways,” she wrote.
After spending her junior fall abroad, Hutman did not hold a position upon her return this semester. She has taken the advantage of the opportunity that distance can often afford to gain a new perspective on the WSA and its operations.
“As a non-member, I found it difficult to [know] what was actually going on in the WSA: there’s a lot of misinformation, which makes it hard for WSA to get work done and discourages students from working through and with the WSA,” Hutman wrote. “I sought out this leadership position to ensure that the WSA has comprehensive and pro-active communications with the student body so that we can all get on the same page. Of course, there will be issues on which we disagree, but let’s let those disagreements be substantive—not the byproducts of miscommunication.”
Looking ahead to next year, Ravi and Hutman shared their visions for the WSA under their leadership.
“I want to maintain and build on a WSA that reinforces inclusion as a foundational value; a WSA that ensures that traditionally marginalized students feel represented and included; and that works with all of you to create both change we can see and change we can build on,” Ravi wrote. “To ensure this I will make the WSA an approachable and inclusive space by prioritizing transparency through outreach, creating liaison positions with groups that already exist and are doing great work, and ensuring that processes for student group registration and funding are streamlined and accessible.”
Ravi stressed that her principle goal is to advocate on behalf of the student body to make the University an inclusive space.
“I want Wesleyan to know that above all else I’m here because I care,” Ravi wrote. “I’ve felt a sense of belonging at Wesleyan, and it’s really important to me to make it possible for all students to feel this way. I want to be known as approachable and collaborative and I urge the community to hold me accountable for my actions and words.”
She continued to say that inclusivity, a cornerstone of 2015-2016 President Kate Cullen ’16 and Vice President Aidan Martinez ’17’s platform, will remain one of hers.
“Within the WSA, I want to expand the work that Kate and Aidan have done to make the WSA more inclusive,” Hutman wrote. “Specifically, I want to flesh out the House of Representatives that they founded last year: it is important that members of the student body, not just elected Senators, are able to engage without the WSA; however, most students are not free on Sundays from 6-9 when the WSA meets. Nila and I are going to create a ‘digitized house of representatives,’ which is an online newsletter that allows to be updated and engage with issues that matter most to you.”
With the “Digitized House of Representatives,” a new initiative, students can customize the information they receive, as one of the biggest criticisms that Hutman has found is that students either feel that they are getting too much information from the WSA or not enough. This way, students are able to receive only the news that pertains to their lives and concerns.
Overall, Hutman looks to approach the next year with openness and determination.
“I want to the WSA to advance policy that makes the broader campus more inclusive and equitable, both inside and outside of the classroom,” Hutman wrote. “That starts with making the WSA a safe and representative space that welcomes and includes students from historically marginalized group[s]. That means working with activist groups not to only pass resolutions, but as a meaningful partner and collaborator.”