By: Sohan Gade ‘23 (he/him), Staff Writer
Photo courtesy Brandon Harris’ 22 (left), Oguzhan Çölkesen ’22 (right)
On February 22nd, 2021, Brandon Harris ’22 and Oguzhan Çölkesen ’22 were elected to a second term as Student Government Association (SGA) President and Vice-President. They ran unopposed for the second time. Their platform this year included a 13-point plan, including policies expanding Mental Health Services, graduate school counseling through the Center for Career Development, and a new Art Rental Program. This year the town hall was moved to a virtual setting, taking place on Zoom, moderated by Davidsonian Editors-in-Chief, Julia Knoerr ’21 and Sebi Sola-Sole ’21.
On February 10th, 2020, Harris and Çölkesen were elected to their first term. Prior to the election, both Brandon and Oguzhan were involved with SGA as senators during their freshman and sophomore years at Davidson.
Since they ran unopposed both years, The Davidsonian held a town hall instead of a traditional SGA Presidential debate. During their first election cycle, Harris and Çölkesen cited their previous experience in SGA and community involvement. They ran on a platform of inclusivity with the slogan “Davidson for All.” On their campaign website, the two included a 26 Point Plan, which included policies to retain faculty of color, better sexual misconduct policies, and health center access Harris and Çölkesen’s SGA Presidential Town Hall was in-person last February, held at the Alvarez Student Union’s 900 room.
Harris explained his experience with service and interest in community organizing. Following that, Çölkesen explained his extensive background in leadership, experience as an international student, and wide academic interests.
When asked about accomplishments and progress, Harris referenced the unprecedented and unique challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic posed to the College community. He proceeded to mention the extensive COVID management strategies that SGA was able to implement, including securing storage units and increasing access to mental health resources.
Harris and Çölkesen further mentioned the challenge of connecting with the student body during COVID and remote learning as well as creating new policy proposals. They added that it was especially difficult to understand how the student body was coping.
“The other challenge was to be able to gauge the concerns and problems on campus, because we basically didn’t spend as much time on campus,” Çölkesen said.
When asked about how the pair dealt with the challenges, Harris said, “We had to use trial and error.”
In response to a question about student feedback, Harris mentioned social media and a wide range of surveys to gauge the general student opinion on campus.
“We’ve been able to do that by really trying to have a heavy presence on social media. We’ve sent out many surveys and when we receive input, we get emails from students constantly,” said Harris.
Sola-Sole and Knoerr also asked the pair about communication, which has generally been a unique challenge given the nature of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing.
“How does your work reach diverse members of the Davidson community beyond just pure students? Also, how do you communicate with administrators and the Board of Trustees?” asked Knoerr.
Harris emphasized a selfless, team-based, and transparent culture within their SGA administration.
“For all these projects that we work on… [it’s] not just us two, there’s 30 of us working together to make these things possible…[and] we have a pretty close connection with Dean McCrae, we meet with him weekly,” said Harris.
During their first term, Harris and Çölkesen oversaw the making (please help with verb choice) of the Black Lives Matter Mural in front of the Alvarez College Union. The pair were asked about ongoing initiatives regarding student activism.
Çölkesen mentioned the recurring theme of a united, transparent community. “Part of being in the SGA is being able to support students with whatever they need, even if they’re not in the SGA. […] we’d always be open to helping them in any way possible,” Çölkesen said.
After the debate, when asked about their reelection campaign, Çölkesen explained that they knew how to approach the process from last year.
“It felt more familiar overall…we knew what steps we had to take to get our campaign up and running…we are planning to take some time to reflect on our past year and start the next term with our goals set,” Çölkesen said.
Overall, Colkesen and Harris remain excited and hopeful to continue supporting the Davidson community over the next year, moving past the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m excited and thankful, beyond thankful that students have given us this opportunity and that they trust in our process,” Harris said.