By Jasmine Heyward, news correspondent
Suchira Sharma, a junior finance and management major, and Paulina Ruiz, a sophomore psychology major, launched their campaign Monday as the first all-female and first all non-white ticket to run for Student Government Association (SGA) student body president and executive vice president.
Sharma and Ruiz, current SGA executive vice president and vice president of student services, respectively, make up one of two tickets running for the positions. Every March, students vote to select the candidates that will represent the student body to the university’s administration for the following academic year. Voting will take place on the myNEU portal from Thursday until March 23.
The campaign, titled “Suchira + Paulina: Believe in More,” is attempting to make history. This could be a burden to some, but the pair said they and their campaign team view it with nothing but excitement.
“This is currently the first time ever that an all-female slate has run for president, and this would be the first time in over a decade where the president of SGA and of the student body would be a female, so that’s very exciting,” said Collin Walter, their campaign manager and a sophomore biochemistry major. “This would be a very historic election.”
For Sharma, confident female leaders have been role models and mentors. She described her relationship with her co-op peer mentor, 2016 alumna Katie Wong, and how she inspired and empowered her. Sharma said she hoped she could do the same for others.
“Her ferocity and approach to life in her field and the tenacity in which she went after things she wanted was so empowering to me,” she said. “It’s important for students to realize that passion, experience and dedication matter in leadership.”
Rather than picking a few key points to campaign with, Sharma and Ruiz said they have insisted on representing their full platform each time they speak about their campaign. They sorted their platform into five categories: Reasonable pricing, resources, rights, representation and relationships.
Sharma and Ruiz said they are passionate about affordability and lowering the academic costs outside of tuition such as housing, books and homework keys, which are online codes required for some students to submit their homework assignments.
“Decreasing the price of the classroom is something that’s important for everyone,” Ruiz said.
Sharma began working on affordability issues this year alongside Elliot Horen, the current SGA president, by starting conversations with administration about limiting or subsidizing homework keys. Ruiz has also worked on affordability initiatives with the student services committee, such as reclassifying Northeastern’s on-campus housing to better reflect the age and amenities of the buildings.
“We ought to have a reclassification of housing on campus, especially since newer buildings are coming up,” Sharma said. “Is West [Village] A South still enhanced? It’s an older building, why is it still enhanced and why are students still paying sky-rocketing amounts for it?”
Sharma would like to help students manage classroom costs through TRACE teacher evaluations. She said she is pushing for questions about the number of required books and other class materials to be added to the surveys. That way, students would know if they were taking a course that requires a number of books instead of finding out on syllabus day and having a week to purchase the items.
Sharma and Ruiz would like to continue current projects to expand resources for mental health, sexual assault survivors and underrepresented groups. They said they want to see Northeastern dedicate money to these areas and ensure that those resources are equally accessible to the entire student body. Sharma said University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) needs more clinicians, and Ruiz has met with the executive UHCS director Dr. Robert Klein to discuss new mental health resources for students.
“I think that’s going to be an ongoing thing for Paulina [Ruiz] and I, in terms of continuing the fight for more clinicians, especially clinicians that represent the diversity of the university,” Sharma said. “I have friends who are international students who wish that they had the same level of comfort that domestic students do when reaching out to UHCS.”
According to the pair’s campaign platform, Northeastern’s Student Bill of Rights was passed in 1992 and has not been updated since. Their priorities are to update it to add Title IX (a federal regulation on gender equality), language services and an equal pay for equal work statement. They said the Student Bill of Rights could also include students attending Northeastern under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a federal program that provides undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States as children permanent residency and a path to citizenship if they complete a four-year degree or military service.
During their time in SGA, Sharma said she and Ruiz have built relationships with many administrative offices and hope to leverage those in advocating for students.
“[Sharma] has really changed the way the executive vice president interfaces with the administration,” Walter said. “She’s not afraid to fight back on what the administration believes in.”
Since their first terms as senators, Sharma and Ruiz have been interested in finding the best ways to create long-term change. Sharma became a senator to represent her sorority, Tri Sigma, after initially deciding that she didn’t want to be part of student government in college.
During her first term, she vividly remembers raising her hand during a discussion about holding classes on Marathon Monday. In a year with record-breaking levels of snow, the university was hoping to make up class time, but Sharma’s sorority attends the marathon annually to do service work. She was unsure if professors could penalize students for missing a class on government-recognized holiday, and while then vice president of academic affairs Eric Tyler didn’t know the answer, he committed to finding out. The next day she had her answer—professors couldn’t penalize the students for missing class that day.
“I was blown away, I was like, ‘That’s how easy it is to work up the chain and get answer?’” she said.
At that point, Sharma knew that she wanted to stay in student government and advocate for the student body however possible.
“That’s kind of when it clicked,” she said. “It was that if I want to see this kind of change happen and this shift in the way SGA interacts with administrators and students to bring students on that same table I would have to be the one to do it.”
Photo courtesy Suchira + Paulina: Believe in More campaign
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated that Paulina Ruiz is the SGA vice president of student affairs. It has been corrected to say that Ruiz is the SGA vice president of student services.