Two returning and four new senators were elected to the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) General Assembly (GA) in the Winter Election. Ariel Deutsch ’21 and Pauline Jaffe ’21 were re-elected as senators, Edrea Jiang ’23 and Kate Liu ’22 were elected for the first time, and Shirmai Chung ’22 and Sam Hoppe ’22 were elected as write-in candidates.
Deutsch has served on the WSA since her first year, and during her most recent term on the WSA in Spring 2019, she served as the Vice Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC). As Vice Chair, she was a student representative to the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) and provided student input on the course retake policy and the Bachelor of Liberal Studies program. She also oversaw the Textbook Exchange Program (TEP), which facilitates textbook sales between students.
In her upcoming term, Deutsch plans to focus on affordability, transparency, and expanding equity and inclusion. For affordability, she wants to ensure more institutional support for the TEP to bring down costs of textbooks for students in addition to supporting the Resource Center’s lending library. Beyond increasing WSA transparency, she hopes to hold the administration more accountable in reporting its actions to students.
“Beyond the WSA, I [want to ensure] that our administration is [held] accountable to the same standards of transparency that the WSA is,” Deutsch said. “So that means galvanizing support to really put pressure on the administration to be open with its upcoming endeavors, whether that’s capital investments or anything that changes really the culture of Wesleyan.”
Deutsch’s continued involvement with the WSA stems from her desire to improve the University so students experience fewer barriers in utilizing campus resources.
“My goal in continuing to be part of the WSA is just trying to expand or just try to make Wesleyan a space where everyone can have that shared positive experience of attending college and really gaining something out of it, because I think there are too many barriers that prevent students from taking advantage of all of the many opportunities that Wesleyan provides,” Deutsch said.
Jaffe also hopes to continue making changes to the University by building connections with different communities across campus, as well as within GA, in her next term on the WSA.
“It’s a community of people,” Jaffe said. “It’s a way for me to understand what’s going on across campus without necessarily having my hand in every bucket. So I think it’s a way for me to hear about a lot of different things, and if there’s things that I’m hearing, I can bring those up…. And just feeling like I’ve had a hand in what’s going on and that I’m someone on this campus that people can come to and talk to. I think I enjoy it and it’s humbling and I’m grateful to have been able to do that for five semesters, going on seven, or something.”
This will be Jaffe’s sixth semester as a GA senator. During her first term, she wrote a resolution that would change WSA election practices to granting all elected senators full-year terms. As a former varsity athlete, Jaffe has maintained relationships with sports groups through her time on the Community Committee. Through this work, she began an initiative last year allowing club sports to use varsity fields.
This past semester, Jaffe moved to AAC and began building relationships with the Office of Admission and the Gordon Career Center. She hopes to help the Career Center better serve students through acquiring student feedback, which will inform changes to the Career Center to become more accessible.
Jiang, one of two students who was elected for the first time, has served on GA as an appointee this past semester. While she did not have any previous student government experience, she spent her past term learning about the WSA’s structure and assisting with AAC projects. When asked why she chose to run for a second term, Jiang highlighted the potential that being a senator held in contributing to the University.
“Being on the WSA was really interesting,” Jiang said. “I’ve learned a lot about Wesleyan as a community and I really enjoyed my time there. I see the impact that this group of students has and I think that being a part of it will not only help me contribute to the Wesleyan community, but it’ll also help me grow as an individual.”
Next semester, she plans to examine academic accessibility and look into providing computer carts for students to check out laptops if their classes require certain types of technology. She also hopes to facilitate conversations between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I also hope to be a bridge between low-income students and high-income students,” Jiang said. “Just from my personal background, I think that I have a unique perspective that can tie the two backgrounds together. And that’s why I’m very passionate about financial aid and academic affairs.”
Liu decided to run for the WSA to represent the voices of mainland Chinese students on GA, especially following campus discussions about the Hong Kong protests and how they affect students on campus.
“We were criticized on the point that the Chinese student community does not speak out, and you do not participate in a lot of community stuff and you’re all to yourself,” Liu said. “And because of the Hong Kong protests that have been going on, or even voices from this school attacking the Chinese community specifically online, that is stopping Chinese students from saying an opinion that may be contrary or opposite of the main values here at Wesleyan. All those things together kind of made me realize how important it is to be the first one to participate, to look for a platform to represent my community. Because if I don’t do it, who’s going to do it?”
After attending the last WSA meeting of the semester, Liu aims to make the resources that the University and the WSA provide more well known and accessible to students. She also hopes to understand the University better alongside representing international student voices on GA.
“In general I’m hoping to first of all, get to know more about what is going on in all this campus because I feel like that is something I’m really lacking from my first year here,” Liu said. “I was solely focusing on surviving, adjusting to the American system and everything like that. So now I want to know what’s going on on campus.”
Chung, one of two write-in candidates elected in the winter election, decided to run after realizing how closely connected her work on campus was to that of current GA senators. One project she has been working on in conjunction with GA is establishing a stipend for student leaders on work-study, or who are low-income.
“Something that I had seen was that I’m one of the only few POC, low-income students that are in sustainability activism groups on campus,” Chung said. “That was something that I’ve been thinking about a lot. When I reached out to a friend of mine in the WSA, it turns out that they were actually thinking of the same thing and they’re actually in the works of doing that.”
She also hopes to represent the voices of international students on GA, especially in advocating for more culturally aware CAPS counselors and mental health resources, and changing domestic students’ views on international students.
“I feel like a lot of the needs of international students are often neglected, and oftentimes the perception of international students on campus is that we’re really rich, we’re foreign, and we’re not very known on campus,” Chung said. “I just want to make sure that even though we’re not a majority of the community, our needs are important and our needs need to be met as well.”
As a member of the Committee for Investor Responsibility (CIR), Chung plans to continue advocating for sustainability initiatives as a senator. She points to the CIR’s divestment of the WSA’s endowment from fossil fuels and Israeli occupation of Palestine last year as an example of her sustainability activism that she hopes to continue.
Hoppe, who also ran as a write-in candidate, was encouraged to run by friends she made through her political activism work. She is unsure about what she will pursue during her time on the WSA, but for now, she is interested to learn about the way funding decisions are made through the Student Budget Committee (SBC).
“I was just curious why someone would get approved for $150 less than what they asked for,” Hoppe said. “I know some of the clubs that I’m in have felt underfunded, and I just kind of want to know what goes into that.”
As a write-in candidate, Hoppe spoke about her first experience campaigning for a seat on the WSA and meeting the number of votes required.
“It’s really interesting because I feel like when people are emailed these ballots, they kind of just vote for whoever’s on the ballot…. I know the people on the ballot got very similar amounts of votes,” Hoppe said. “It’s weird to actually have to campaign for something and convince people face-to-face that they should vote for you…. I’ve never been elected to any position, so it’s a little bit more encouraging to know that there are people out there who believe my ideas will benefit the school.”
Jocelyn Maeyama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.