The OneBU slate won the election for next year’s Student Government Executive Board and the UNITY Party secured the most Senate seats in at-large elections, according to an email to Boston University students sent Wednesday from Hafzat Akanni, current student body president and senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Akanni also wrote that voter turnout this year was the highest it has been in over ten years, with 26.5 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot. This election also featured a record breaking number of five executive board slates and six at-large parties running for their respective positions.
Oliver Pour, a sophomore in the College of Communication and next year’s student body president, said he and his team were eagerly awaiting the results on a Zoom call together.
“We had the BU Student Government Instagram out, [Student Elections Commission] Instagram out and our emails all open just waiting for it to hit 12:00. As soon as it hit 12:00, I was the first one to see that SEC posted. I scrolled, saw that OneBU won and just screamed,” Pour said. “Everyone was super excited, the energy was so high.”
On the high voter turnout, Pour said he is proud of all the slates for making this election a success, with the COVID-19 pandemic making campaigning difficult.
“We were thrown a bunch of curveballs COVID-19 coming and going from on-campus to just online,” Pour said. “The game plans had to completely change, but I’m definitely proud of my team and proud of every single slate for giving it their all. It really made this an incredible election.”
The challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic and remote learning forced the SEC to adjust their plans considerably, according to Minji Kwak, co-chair of SEC and a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. Kwak said that despite the challenges, she and the other co-chairs were pleased with the outcome.
“In terms of what we did during the second semester, it was a lot more online. But it was the same thing [as first semester]: communicating with the slates, letting people know what’s going on,” Kwak said. “We also worked really hard with [BU’s Information Services and Technology] to form the ballot, BU admin and the current Student Government to spread the word that elections are happening. And this year, the hard work paid off and showed in the voter turnout, which I’m really happy about.”
Vanessa Rodriguez, an SEC co-chair and sophomore in CAS and the Questrom School of Business, said voter turnout on just the first day surpassed everyones’ expectations.
“In the beginning, we were like, ‘how funny would it be if we beat the record?’ It’s all online, we don’t know,” Rodriquez said. “And then, as the numbers came in, on [the] first day we beat last year’s voter turnout, which was insane.”
Heading into next year, Pour said he and his team are already beginning their work. He said their main goal is to increase students’ involvement in SG and to create an atmosphere of inclusivity for all.
“Our goal when it came to the people was inclusiveness,” Pour said. “It’s really our job as people, not just as Student Government figures but just as people within the community to really get more people involved.”
Shaina Evans, party leader for UNITY, also said her at-large group’s goal is to increase inclusivity on campus. The party hopes to increase the representation of students of color across campus, though they welcome the participation of allies.
“We just want to unite students of color under one coalition to have a stable structure within student government and, by extension, with the admin at large,” Evans said. “And we’re doing that in a manner that’s intersectional. So we include all different types of genders, sexualities and religious beliefs.”
Evans said she was pleasantly surprised by the larger voter turnout, and was happy to see that her group’s campaign strategy worked.
“My strategy was simple. I didn’t create any social media or anything like that … But that was just because I wanted to get word out through word of mouth,” Evans said. “I’m a big fan of getting people to believe in something, I don’t really think social media is always super necessary. I just thought that it was kind of no games, no gimmicks kind of thing.”
The UNITY party has many goals heading into next year. Evans said one thing the party hopes to prioritize is increasing diversity in education at BU.
“One main thing that we want to acknowledge and improve is the diversity, or lack of diversity, of curriculums on-campus,” Evans said. “I always use the English Department as my example, but it’s kind of across disciplines, but a lot of [their courses] are very Eurocentric.”
Evans said she hopes her slate will be able to help others recognize the problems students of color face and that they can work to solve those problems.
“My experience in Student Government has taught me that there’s a lot of bureaucracy and it’s hard to get a lot of things done,” Evans said. “But I think the most important thing that we can do for the first year is first get acknowledgement that there are issues on-campus and that there’s issues specific to students of color on-campus.”