On April 13, Murtaza Ukani ’22 and Ella Vetter ’22 were announced as the new Student Government Organization President and Vice President respectively for the 2020-2021 school year.
There were three different pairs running for President and Vice President this year. Ukani and Vetter ran on a platform including, but not limited to, pushing for Ban the Ban, supporting existing organizing work in the community, providing post-pandemic support, and increasing CAPS accessibility.
This year’s elections were conducted online with rank choice voting, and over 700 students participated in the election. This was a massive uptick in participation, in the last SGO election only 270 people voted.
Current SGO President Kat Capossela ’21 said that SGO worked very hard to switch the election to an online format.
“SGO had great plans to expand in-person voter turnout by having voting booths in popular locations like Sci and Sharples, as well as an online form. Of course, that wasn’t possible come springtime, so we pivoted. Instead, we drummed up a massive social media presence by asking all of our candidates to advertise on Facebook, Instagram, and similar platforms to help build excitement around the election,” wrote Capossela. “The last election we held in 2019 received 275 votes, while this one saw 700 votes — a historic turnout. I won’t say we achieved our goal until we get all 1600 students to vote, but I will say I’m very proud of our work and the results.”
Capossela also believes that SGO’s increased presence on campus this year encouraged more students to run, vote, and participate in SGO’s activities.
Vetter found it difficult to campaign online, but appreciated the outpour of support she and Ukani received.
“So for me online campaigning was pretty difficult just because I really prefer interacting with people in person. If we were on campus during the election process I do think we would have utilized the facebook group and social media, but definitely not to the extent that we had to since there was no way for us to complete in-person outreach,” wrote Vetter.
Vetter and Ukani were also aware that they had limited options while campaigning online.
“Repetitive Facebook posts can get annoying, especially with the current circumstances, so I think we really tried to keep our campaign lighthearted but also straightforward so that we could showcase the ideas and plans that we have for the future of SGO,” wrote Vetter.
Capossela also notes that SGO worked to try to gain back the trust and faith of the student body.
“I think it’s important to recognize that we inherited an organization that very few students understood to be capable or trustworthy, and through immense efforts by a great executive board, we demonstrated that we could help change that understanding. We still have so much work to do, relationships to mend, but we showed great promise. I am so happy for Murtaza and Ella to be the ones leading the next iteration of SGO,” wrote Capossela.
In a letter posted on Facebook after their win, Ukani and Vetter also acknowledged that they wanted to continue to work to repair the relationship between SGO and the student body.
“As your President and Vice President, we assure you that we are going beyond listening; we are actively working to address the concerns that are most pressing to us all as students. We acknowledge the histories of the broken relationship between SGO and the student body, and that hundreds of you turned out to end a destructive cycle of disconnected leaders and hold SGO candidates accountable,” wrote Ukani and Vetter.
Ukani and Vetter also expressed that they hope to transform SGO and encouraged students to vote in the executive board and senate elections for candidates who would help them carry out their platform.
“The manifestation of our hefty vision for SGO is also rooted within every member of this governing body. As we’ve said before, we intend to ignite a transformation in SGO where every member possesses an inner fidelity of love, critical care, and the real motivation to push the boundaries of Swarthmore to meet the needs of all. With executive board elections launching this Friday and the Senate announcing candidacies next week, we urge you all to help us build this coalition needed within SGO by voting and throwing support behind candidates,” wrote Ukani and Vetter.
SGO Executive Board, Senate, and SBC elections have also been held online.