With elections underway for next year’s Undergraduate Student Government, A Hunter United is the only slate running this year, which leaves most candidates, including the presidential and vice presidential candidates, with no competition.
Of the 37 candidates on the list of the Hunter USG page, only three are independent candidates, and they are challenging the sophomore, junior and senior senator positions. Since 2019, A Hunter Alliance, another political party, has been AHU’s main competitor, but it isn’t participating this year.
“The reason we didn’t run this year was a consequence of the pandemic, most of our core members graduated and our efforts to recruit people online didn’t go well,” said junior Ariel Ortega, who previously ran for External Affairs Commissioner with AHA. Ortega says that last year, he was running around with a laptop in hands talking to students at different clubs and events. It was hard to recreate that engagement online.
The rivalry between AHU and AHA can be traced back to 2016. AHU is more constant in their presence on the ballot than AHA.
Former AHA campaign manager Darin Kalev says that many of their candidates suffered physically and emotionally as a result of last year’s election, leading many to decide not to run again. For example, one AHA candidate was the victim of rumors and impersonation.
Kalev says that while AHA posted occasionally, AHU was more active on social media during the elections. “To an extent, elections are always a popularity contest even though we would prefer they are not,” Kalev said. “ I stand by our decision to prioritize the wellbeing of ourselves and of the Hunter body. If it meant the temporary downfall of A Hunter Alliance, so be it. I’m sure someone will come along and bring it back.”
Running with a slate requires 150 signatures, which are usually divided among the 35 candidates. Independent candidates need 25 signatures to declare their candidacy. Last year, the Office of Student Activities was lenient about signatures due to the transition to online learning. This year, signatures weren’t a problem for AHU as they were able to gather 385, said AHU presidential candidate Devashish Basnet. Last year, AHA won 15 seats and AHU won 20 seats in USG.
The only presidential candidate on the ballot this year is Basnet, who is currently a junior senator. In a call with AHU, Basnet told slate members that this moment is when the real test starts for them as student leaders. They could slide their way to victory or they could take the time to interact with Hunter students.
In 2019, campaigning season consisted of candidates handing out free pancakes, approaching students and answering questions. Due to the pandemic, campaigning became remote-only. This year, AHU has hosted Zoom events and posted on social media.
Basnet and vice presidential candidate Kayla Benjamin decided to divide the slate into four teams: policy, communications, events and outreach. Each team is led by an e-board candidate. For instance, Lizeth Flores is the slate’s external affairs commissioner candidate. Since that position entails media relations, she is the head of communications group, which creates campaign content.
Candidates who make it onto the slate are approached by members who previously ran with the slate. This year, Basnet was favored by current USG president Hardik Bhaskar to be the AHU presidential nominee and took over recruiting. He made connections with a lot of students remotely, including some who never thought about joining student government before. The slate quickly filled up the 35 positions in two and a half weeks in February. (One of AHU’s senior senator candidates did not qualify to run because of credits, so the slate is only running 34 candidates.)
One of Basnet’s candidates is freshman Colleen Denmon for sophomore senator. The two met last semester through mock trial, and Basnet reached out because he thought she would represent Hunter students well. Basnet found her dedicated, responsive and well-spoken. She was also recommended by another slate member, and her experience as a student admissions leader made her a good fit for the slate.
Freshman senator Hira Khan previously ran with AHA but is now running with AHU for a position in the faculty student disciplinary committee. She joined AHU after getting to know other candidates running on the slate, many of whom are her current USG team members.
She ran with AHA in 2020 but lost touch with the party once she became an official officer in USG.
Transfer student Linden Isles says he would’ve possibly wanted to join AHU, but he was too late. A former senator in student government at Borough of Manhattan Community College, he is currently running for junior senator as an independent candidate.
In fall 2020, Isles was struggling to get in contact with someone at Hunter regarding his $700 balance. When he wasn’t able to register for spring classes, he reached out to USG but had no luck in getting help. He continued to email different people in the administration until he was finally able to resolve the hold in his account.
Isles was told to download the Hunter College Schools App, and the first thing he saw was complaints from students. Occasionally, staff would help, but mostly it was students helping each other. He searched for USG in the Hunter Students Facebook group, and he didn’t find much except for campaign posts of previous years. “USG should be more visible and accessible to students,” Isles told The Envoy.
At 2:00 p.m on March 15, Isles decided that he would run for USG. He reached out to friends and other students from his classes to collect the required 25 signatures needed to officially submit his USG nominating petition.
Isles says even if students don’t vote for him and elect someone else, the most important thing is that they get their voices heard.