Politicians fought, tooth and nail, in a harrowing battle to the finish. In the end, some were left ecstatic, and others saw their dreams crumble. No, I’m not talking about the 2016 elections. This September’s drama unfolded in the historic halls of the Wesleyan Student Assembly. To find out exactly what it means to be a WSA senator, The Argus contacted a few of the election’s victors to see if they could fit us into their busy political schedules. They seized upon the chance to discuss their roles in the student body.
The first candidate, Aaron Cheung ’19, sat down with The Argus in Exley. Aaron won a convincing 79.45 percent of the at-large election, earning a full term in office. He greeted me with a smile and a welcoming handshake.
The Argus: What’s up Aaron!? First, congratulations on your big win.
Aaron Cheung: Thank you!
A: Tell me a bit about yourself.
AC: I’m a junior at Wes, and I’m triple majoring in CSS, Government, and Econ.
A: Wow, sounds like a lot.
AC: Sure is. It’s not too bad!
A: So I’ll be honest, I don’t understand how we have at-large elections if everyone can just vote for their own classes. Can you explain that process?
AC: Of course. Each semester there are class elections for every year. However, you can only vote for your class year. If there are unfilled seats, those seats will be available for “at-large” spots, which means anyone can run for them. Because my class representation filled up, I needed to run as an at-large candidate, meaning anyone could vote for me.
A: What role does the WSA as a whole play at Wesleyan, and in the greater Middletown community?
AC: We divide ourselves up into several committees, and in those committees focus on executive projects. In general, we take on challenges that allow us to make significant change over multiple semesters. Most stuff is longer term. Do you know of the new print voucher system?
A: Enlighten me.
AC: It was something I worked on extensively with other senators [Azher Jaweed ’19, Olivia Cai ’19, Josh Prywes ’17] to obtain funding for low-income students to use Wes printer services. This year, over $16,500 was distributed to over 650 students. We maintain a close relationship with the administration, and see ourselves as promoting activism within the system. Additionally, the WSA was influential in winter classes for students who stay at Wes over the break.
A: What’s the nature of your relationship with the administration?
AC: We have seven representatives who have a voice at trustee meetings. In terms of other administrative spots on campus, we are close with Olin Library, Finance, and recently opened up a relationship with the Career Center.
A: You’ve touched upon it a bit, but why did you run? What issues at Wesleyan are you going to address in the upcoming year?
AC: My committee is looking at a potential fourth Gen Ed that would require you to take one or two classes engaging underrepresented groups. We are also working to better develop student-faculty relationships, as many don’t know the professors very well.
A: Those sounds like impressive causes. Who was the first person you called after your resounding victory?
AC: Well, I ran unopposed. I knew the results were out, and tried to check them but was having (inebriated) fun that night. So I checked the next day and found out I won. I posted on Facebook to thank everyone for voting, and for their support.
A: Just one last question for you Aaron, I know you’re a busy guy. What’s it like being a politician on campus? Has your newfound fame been a struggle?
AC: [laughs] Actually the WSA is very low-key, and we work inside the system. One thing I would like to see is more people voting, our turnout rates have been poor. My solution is putting voting options on WesPortal, which I think would increase student voting.
Aaron offered excellent insight into the inner workings of the WSA political machine. Now it was time to sit down with a few first years, and see what they had to say. Ronald Meehan ’21, the leading freshman vote earner, had plenty of things to say and not much time to say it.
A: Hey Ron! Your name is everywhere in the Nics, telling people to vote for Ron from Alaska. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Ron From Alaska: I was always very involved in extracurriculars in high school, specifically with food assistance, and have an interest in politics. I recently served as an intern for U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski.
A: What motivated you to run as a freshman?
RFA: I want all students to have a voice: low-income, LGBTQ, students of color, and others. While Wes is excellent in these aspects, I want to expand upon the resources already in place. Also, I want there to be an affordable shuttle to New Haven.
A: What was your pitch to voters? How did you convince so many to support you?
RFA: I was as personable as possible. I met with people, talked the issues, and want you all to know my door is open. I’m accessible.
A: Walk us through your election day emotions.
RFA: I found out at Usdan with some very close friends I made here, who were integral to my campaign. I then called my parents, who were excited for me.
A: Thank you for your time Ron, I’m sure you’ve got a meeting to attend.
Finally, the Argus made contact with the most elusive WSA member of the three, Eric Xu ’21. He agreed to an interview during the midday Usdan lunch rush.
A: Eric, thank you for your time! Tell us your story in less than 15 seconds.
Eric Xu: I’m from the Shandong province of China, and take film and computer courses at Wesleyan. This will be my first time in student government.
A: You didn’t have one in high school?
EX: We had one, but didn’t receive any funding or decide anything important. The WSA is cool because we make decisions with real money that have an impact.
A: What will your main focus be this semester?
EX: I want to make sure international students understand how much funding is available to them if they are interested in starting a club. I also want to make sure minorities feel comfortable here. Finally, I want to make sure people who don’t come from mainstream backgrounds to understand that their culture is cool too, and to showcase it to the school.
As these candidates have shown, Wes students, from first years to upperclassmen, have distinct and enthusiastic ideas about the direction the WSA should go. Based on the enthusiasm from all the members, it seems the student government is in capable hands.
Jack Leger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.