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Courtesy of Student Government

Reflecting on Student Government General Elections

A look at the recently wrapped up Student Government elections and what the new appointees envision.

Apr 19, 2020

At 12:00 a.m. April 11, the Elections Commission officially commenced the 2020-2021 Student Government General Elections, opening up voting to appoint 13 positions, choosing from 35 candidates. Capping off an extensive week of self-promotion via class posts and the Candidate Forum, this year’s election saw the highest voter turnout in recent years. According to the official statistics released by the Elections Commission, the most popular candidacies were for the positions of President and Sophomore Class Representative — accruing respectively a 41.97 and a 57.63 percent voter turnout.
With regard to higher voter turnouts, Ana Maria Radu, class of 2023 and an outgoing member of the Elections Commissions, said that the “candidates were engaging a lot more with class chats … and we were able to use the Student Government Instagram account to create a lot more hype around the elections.”
Carrying out the elections under the Covid-19 pandemic, restrictions pushed the election process online. “Flexibility is key,” remarked Radu. “The candidate forum shifted to Zoom … Unfortunately, there was no opportunity for panel discussions in the forum ... [and although] it was difficult to coordinate ... the elections [ultimately] went fine.”
Despite the initial success, Radu believes there are still much-needed improvements to the elections. “There needs to be more clarity on the identity of the Elections Commission … [especially as it transitions] from under Student Government to Student life ... there also need to be clearer and distinct rules,” Radu commented. Throughout the voting period, ambiguity surrounding voting privileges for double majors and those partaking in a leave of absence emerged, creating issues for certain voters.
However, as Radu concludes her final term it will be up to Lucas Davidenco, class of 2021, Bevan Chu, class of 2023 and a new incoming member of the Elections Commission to address these concerns as they build upon the success of the most recent election.
With much of the electoral process shifted online, it was inevitable that online forums such as the NYUAD Confessions page would be used to promote and criticize campaigns. Henry Roberts, class of 2021, declared his candidacy for the role of Student Government President and conducted his campaign on the grounds of “a great paradigm shift … [to create] a campus where any person can be a king.” As a self-proclaimed outsider to the politics of NYU Abu Dhabi, critics on anonymous confessions posts were quick to denounce and reduce his campaign with an “anti-establishment” label. Unfazed by his political opposition, Roberts shared, “my first foray into Student Government … was fun. Me and my mates … put together some bizarre posters and wrote some funny speeches and the whole thing provided me with a vector to just spew some really bizarre [things] on the airwaves.” Roberts was ultimately unsuccessful in his campaign, leading the presidential vote for the first day before ending with 20% of the total votes. On the anti-establishment label, he said, “in my candidates forum, I never really said ‘anti-establishment’ ... [but] the whole thing still became aligned with my platform. [Many students] ended up seeing me as this radical anti-social justice warrior … [But] I [still] received messages that students really empathized with my campaign … they feel as if it is this same sort of dynasty — the same kind of people and their circles.” Although unelected, Roberts did provide advice for the incoming members of the Student Government: “I’m sure they will do a good job … [but there is a] disconnect between the Student Government and the majority of the student body. The average student on the Highline is never going to take the initiative to reach out to Student Government because they don’t have the time or interest to do so.”
The identification of this fracture between the Student Government and the student body was also brought up by Teodora Hristovska, Class of 2021 and successful President-elect. Having established her platform on the need to reform the General Assembly, Hristovska said, “as the one place where students can voice concerns … [it is unfortunate that] not many students can come. … I plan to talk to students and ask what is stopping them from coming. Is it the agenda? The time [it takes place]? Or are they just too busy?” Winning the election by a landslide margin of 131 votes to her nearest competitor Tom Abi Samra, class of 2021, it was clear that this resonated with the voters.
As a long-time member of Student Government, Hristovska herself acknowledged that weaknesses do exist in Student Government. “[Much of the work in] Student Government is behind the scenes … we already do publish minutes but there can be more open communication while working on [projects],” said Hristovska. “However, at the same time, this leads to false hopes … [with regards to] final outcomes. In the end, I hope that during my presidency … any time that students raise concerns, … [the Student Government] will follow up and take action.”
Hristovska inevitably has large shoes to fill as Hafsa Ahmed, class of 2020 and current Student Government President, continues to fulfill her role as the voice of the student body in conversations with the school administration. With the Covid-19 pandemic in full force, shifts in NYUAD’s policies have largely been communicated by Ahmed and the current Student Government, which has been placed under increasing pressure from members of the Class of 2020 regarding the administration’s decisions on commencement. Despite these issues, Ahmed finds the time to reflect on her stint in Student Government throughout her four years.
“Student Government has always been a great platform to facilitate conversations … [and] as a channel to exercise [students’] rights.” With her time with Student Government providing a “sense of home and family,” Ahmed is proud of her legacy but noted that there will always be room for improvement. Specifically, Ahmed believes that the structure surrounding the processes of Student Government needs changing, recommending “[new] formal, anonymous resolution processes … [other than] Facebook posts, … improvement of accountability metrics in the resignation and impeachment processes … and the overall voting procedure in General Assemblies.”
As a final note, Ahmed supports all “sorts of constructive engagement and criticism” directed to the Student Government and recommends all students to reach out to their elected representatives. “The best time to … [implement] change in Student Government is during the transition period,” says Ahmed. With the transition period lasting until the end of the semester, Ahmed advises, “reach out to your representative… [and] ask for change.”
The President-elect Hristovska is eager to accommodate. “I'm truly honored and excited to advocate on behalf of our students. I am looking forward to working with all of you so we can improve everyone's experience on our campus.”
Bevan Chu is a Staff Writer. Email him at
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