Olivia Doran ‘21
On Monday evening, Davidson students received an email announcing the Category II election results. However, this year’s results for SGA President and Vice President were no surprise, as presidential candidate Brandon Harris ’22 and vice-presidential candidate Oğuzhan Çölkesen ’22 ran uncontested. According to the February 10, 2000 issue of The Davidsonian, this is the first uncontested SGA presidential election at Davidson since 2000.
After spring break, Harris and Çölkesen will take over as SGA President and Vice President, respectively. Because they ran unopposed, the annual SGA presidential debate did not occur. Instead, The Davidsonian hosted a town hall on Sunday evening in the 900 room of the Student Union.
Editors-in-Chief Katie Walsh ’20 and Ethan Ehrenhaft ’20 interviewed Harris and Çölkesen about their platform and current issues on campus, such as the proposed changes to the Latin Honors system and promoting diversity and inclusiveness on campus.
The platform, available on their website, davidsonforall.weebly.com, consists of 26 points spanning a variety of topics, from mid-semester feedback for professors to implicit bias tutorial for students. Harris stated, “many of these ideas may seem pretty far-fetched, but one reason why we have goals that are bigger is because we feel that if we make movement towards those goals, even if we find them difficult to accomplish […] we feel like we are making positive progress on campus.”
Out of the 26 points, Harris asserted, “our highest priorities are those we put on our posters: retaining professors of color, improving the textbook share program, increasing access to the health center, and improving policy that relates to sexual misconduct on campus.”
Historically, the SGA president has been elected their junior year; however, this is the second consecutive year that the organization’s leader is a sophomore. Current president Emmitt Sklar ’21 discussed his experience being elected president as a sophomore, commenting that he has “noticed a trend where people will start the first year or second year doing things like honor council, SGA, that sort of stuff, but then [involvement] will trickle off.”
When asked why more students did not run for president, Sklar explained that, in the role of president, “one of the biggest things is how much time you have to put into this job… it is a pretty daunting commitment.” Freshman Senator Wren Healy ’23 also attributed the lack of interest in running for president to students recognizing that being SGA President is “an enormous time commitment.”
However, some students have shared concerns about this year’s election. Julia Tayloe ’21 asserted that an unopposed election “shows that people are placing less importance on SGA than in past years.”
Leo Artus ’21 shared views similar to Tayloe’s when he stated, “I don’t think student government matters to a lot of people. But there is a subset to whom it does matter a lot.”
Students have also shared reservations about the clarity of Harris’s and Çölkesen’s platform and goals for their term. On both their posters and their website, Harris and Çölkesen stated that they would like to “ensure that there are support services available for survivors of sexual misconduct while also holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions.” In reference to this statement, Co-President of the Rape Awareness Committee Niara Webb ’20 said, “I don’t think it is robust enough for me to have a clear sense of what he thinks that means.”
During the town hall, Çölkesen and Harris addressed concerns about lack of transparency at Davidson. Çölkesen agreed that, “from the administration’s side there needs to be more transparency, and we will definitely work on providing that information to the students about the things that are happening behind [closed] doors.”
Webb emphasized that she strongly values transparency, a quality which she hopes Harris and Çölkesen will bring forth during their term. She claimed that especially during her first couple years on campus, when she was less involved, “it was hard to understand what [SGA] was doing and their role as a liaison between faculty and staff and the deans and the student body.” She said that she “would like to see what is being done.”
In the closing minutes of the town hall, Çölkesen asserted his confidence in his and Harris’s abilities for the upcoming term: “we feel that because we are running unopposed, we need to prove ourselves on the job and actually show the student body that we are actually worthy of those positions, and we didn’t just get those positions because we were running unopposed…We will make sure that we are implementing the changes that we are suggesting in our platform.”