‘Mayor of Huntington Avenue’ makes the most of its post-pandemic return


Photo Courtesy Anita Goharfar.

Grace Comer, news staff

Decked out in suit jackets and Northeastern pins, the candidates for Mayor of Huntington Avenue went head-to-head in an intense debate Friday night at the Curry Student Center. This year, Charlie Zhang, a second-year sociology and international business combined major, is running against Ganesh Kolli, a third-year electrical engineering major. 

The Mayor of Huntington Avenue, or MoHA, is a school tradition dating back to the mid-1950s, where the Northeastern Student Alumni Ambassadors, or SAA, organize voting for an undergraduate student to work alongside administration and other student groups to plan events and introduce new school resources. 

“The Mayor of Huntington Avenue has to put on one programming event for the community,” said fourth-year computer science major Sanjana Mishra, the vice president of SAA. “They also collaborate with SAA to put on events with alumni.” 

Although the tradition has seen some gaps, most notably between 1989 to 2005, SAA brought MoHA back in full swing in 2019. 

“We didn’t have MoHA last year during the pandemic, so we really wanted to devote our full time and energy to something that we knew we could perform in person,” said fifth-year political science major Josie Ahlberg, the SAA campus relations chair. “We’re really excited to bring it back this year and there’s a whole legacy of people who’ve done the event before, so this is our last chance to have the old and new mingle.”

Some of the legacy participants Ahlberg mentioned played a role at Friday’s debate, with the 2019 MoHA, Jared Jacobson, and former SAA president Sarah Johnson acting as judges alongside the current SAA president, fourth-year business administration major Manisha Asokumar. 

Hosted by Ahlberg and Mishra in the Curry Student Center Ballroom, the debate opened with a series of icebreaker questions before leading into Northeastern trivia games and some more serious questions by the judges and audience members. 

After Zhang revealed he is lactose-intolerant and would like to take a vacation to the moon, Kolli shared he would like to major in stand-up comedy and that Qdoba is sometimes better than Amelia’s Taqueria. Next, the candidates had a chance to prove their knowledge about Northeastern in a series of three games. 

Audience members shouted out words they associate with Northeastern, and each candidate was given a minute to talk about their perspectives on “co-op,” “experiential” and “husky.” 

Zhang took the time to explain one of his MoHA proposals — to create a program that helps students navigate their first co-ops. “It’s going to be a system where students can review, evaluate and serve as a resource for other students after they’ve completed their co-op,” he said. 

Kolli recalled his first time meeting both President Joseph E. Aoun and Northeastern’s mascot, Paws. 

“It gave me a sense of belonging to my time being here seeing the husky at games,” he said. “I can say that we’re all Huskies, and we’re in it together.”

The two got to test their knowledge of Northeastern dorms, Boston area universities and Boston neighborhoods in a game in which each took turns naming a new item in each category until one could no longer think of a related item. Zhang claimed victory with his knowledge of dorms and neighborhoods, but Kolli beat him out with universities. 

Finally, the candidates competed to answer a series of trivia questions, in which they finished neck-and-neck as each successfully answered four questions. 

Getting down to the real business of their platforms, the judges took turns asking the candidates questions about their stances and goals as MoHA. 

“My personal goal in my time at Northeastern is to maximize the amount of happiness to those around me,” Kolli said. His platform includes increasing mental health resources for students, improving peer mentoring programs and allowing students’ creativity to shine through in campus events. 

“I’ve gotten so much positivity from Northeastern, and seeing the effect of those around me lifting each other up, I want to pay it forward through putting on great events,” he said. “I want to use this platform to enact change on a higher scale.”

Zhang’s platform focuses on diversity and intersectionality on campus. “I believe in kindness, and I think [kindness] will go a long way in showing that Northeastern is an inclusive and diverse community, and that we all appreciate the people around us and we can advocate for the people around us,” he said. 

His platform includes increasing communication with Northeastern administration around issues such as the Northeastern University Police Department and improving the sexual violence resources available on campus.

Both candidates place a heavy emphasis on advocating for student voices. 

“I want to open many more dialogues with the administration who determine our entire lives on campus,” Zhang said. “I feel like we should be advocating for ourselves in a much greater capacity to allow direct transparency and direct communication with the administration members that define our daily life.”

Similarly, Kolli said, “As MoHA, I can’t promise I will fix all of [Northeastern’s] problems, but I do promise to present your problems to officials on campus and increase your happiness by a bit.” 

Both candidates are already heavily involved in the Northeastern community, with Zhang being an active member of the Student Government Association and Kolli holding leadership roles in the Entrepreneur’s Club, NUImpact and Hall Council. 

In addition to targeting specific campus issues, the MoHa is responsible for planning a fun event for Northeastern students. Kolli, circling back to his goal of promoting student creativity, plans to host a student arts showcase.

“We’re known for our top academics and our experiential learning, but also for the creative outlets that we provide. I want to showcase our creative side as well,” he said. 

Zhang’s event brings back the idea of diversity at Northeastern through a multicultural food exchange at the Xhibition Kitchen in the Stetson West dining hall. 

“Food is the universal language where we can all share our cultures with each other and share how much fun we have cooking food,” he said. 

Each MoHA candidate has a platform based around amplifying student voices and improving student lives on campus, with different ideas of how to go about achieving this goal. 

Students are encouraged to attend the Cupcakes with the Candidates event on Nov. 8 from 4-5 p.m. in the Curry Student Center Indoor Quad and then vote for their preferred MoHA candidate online. Voting closes Nov. 8 at 5 p.m., and the winner will be announced at the 7 p.m. men’s hockey game that evening. 

Editor’s note: MoHA candidate Charlie Zhang was a former member of The News’ design staff.