SGA candidate slates face off in public debate before election


Quillan Anderson

In a debate March 10, the two SGA candidate slates were able to discuss their goals and policies in advance of the election. The candidates, from left to right, are Angelica Jorio (presidential candidate) and Sebastian Chávez (vice presidential candidate) of the Jorio-Chávez Ticket, and Abigail Sodergren (vice presidential candidate) and Rhea Tipnis (presidential candidate) of the New Horizons slate.

Grace Comer, campus editor

To help voters pick a new student body president and executive vice president in the first contested election in four years, the Student Government Association, or SGA, hosted a debate between the two slates March 10. Both the Jorio-Chávez ticket and the New Horizons slate were given the chance to introduce themselves and answer questions from the student body about what their policies would look like if elected. 

The Jorio-Chávez ticket includes presidential candidate Angelica Jorio, a second-year political science and economics combined major, and executive vice presidential candidate Sebastian Chávez, the former vice president of student services at SGA and a third-year industrial engineering and political science double major. In their opening statements, they emphasized their goal of giving students a bigger voice in SGA and its policies. 

The New Horizons slate consists of the current executive director of communications and third-year business administration major Rhea Tipnis as presidential candidate, running alongside the current SGA chief of staff and second-year data science and business administration combined major Abigail Sodergren as the executive vice presidential candidate. They share the goal of improving the relationship between SGA and the student body, and also hope to expand SGA’s influence and connections through their Empower, Engage, Evolve platform.

“Our goals for this campaign are to empower you, our student body, engage with our Northeastern and Boston community, and evolve the culture surrounding our student government,” Tipnis said in her opening remarks. 

SGA opened their inboxes for questions from the student body in the days leading up to the debate, giving everyone the opportunity to ask the candidates about their goals and policies for the coming year. The debate opened with SGA-prepared questions, with the last half hour dedicated to those submitted by students. 

Candidates were first asked about their plans for improving SGA’s working relationship and communication with Northeastern administration. They were then asked how they would gain support for their agenda from the administration and how they will hold staff and faculty accountable for student needs.

Jorio and Chávez pointed to their experience working with administration through SGA and other clubs. 

“Angelica and I have been working strongly with administration for the past two years, whether it’s been through dining hall, through other faculty, through different members around campus, we have loved working with administration in the past and we’ve been very effective in order to put our foot down and stand up for student interests,” Chávez said. “We plan on doing the same if we are to be elected for president and vice president.” 

Jorio said she believes that administration is happy to work with SGA and other students, as long as they are persistent in pushing for their needs. 

“From my experience [administration] is willing and able, but it’s an ongoing conversation,” Jorio said. “We cannot let them slide or forget what we’re talking about. It’s just constant contact in creating those relationships, and those relationships are the core of how we can actually have a relationship with the student body and President [Joseph E.] Aoun.” 

Tipnis, from the New Horizons slate, has helped to organize town hall meetings between administrators and students during her time at SGA. She and Sodergren said they want to hold more of these conversations to increase transparency within administration and give students space to voice concerns. They also want to give the general student body direct access to these administrators, rather than relying on SGA to make these contacts. 

“Apart from SGA, we as students have the power to directly contact administration,” Tipnis said. “Beyond communicating with them as members of SGA, we want to give students access to administrator contact information. We want to establish office hours with important administrators so students can directly voice their concerns.” 

Jorio and Chávez both pointed out that many students in the past have had difficulties contacting SGA, and that their goal is to instead leverage SGA’s decades-long relationship with administration to communicate the current student issues. Tipnis and Sodergren agreed about this difficulty, but highlighted their goal of changing the way these relationships work. 

“We’d like to create the culture with administration that SGA can be separate [from other student communication], and that’s creating the environment so that students can do what they’ve been trying to do for a long time and directly contact our administrators,” Sodergren said. 

Chávez and Jorio emphasized their goal of including other student organizations in their policies.

“If you look at all the incredible things that [NU] Mutual Aid is doing and YDSA is doing, it’s because the students are the core,” Jorio said. “We need to create partnerships with all these organizations and students at large to make sure that they know what’s happening with the student body.” 

Each campaign was then asked to elaborate on their platform’s goals and promises, and to explain how they would realistically achieve these goals. The New Horizons slate explained how their overarching values influence the specific promises of their platform. 

“The unique thing about our platform is that we have a balance between a vision and tangible action items,” Tipnis said. “For example, if you look at our Empower vision, we want to empower our student body, but that’s just our bigger vision. … We want to have a centralized university events calendar. We want to provide administrator contact information to all of our students. In that way, not only are we having a greater vision that our platform wants to convey, but students can know if we’re actually fulfilling that vision or not.” 

They also emphasized the role that accountability from the student body has played in developing this platform, based on the feedback they received in their current roles within SGA. 

“For the past year, we have been held accountable for communicating with our students and organizations on campus,” Tipnis said. “We’ve been held accountable for making senate inclusive. We’ve been held accountable for just being an inclusive environment at Northeastern where students feel comfortable to walk up to SGA, ask us questions, voice their concerns. From there is where our platform really came about.” 

Jorio and Chávez focused on their promise to introduce new channels for student communication outside of town halls and senate meetings, as they believe many students are not comfortable sharing concerns in these settings. 

Jorio, who has never been elected to an SGA leadership position, said her background in advocacy clubs outside SGA makes their platform special. Chávez also added that they promise to involve other student groups to expand the influence and goals of SGA. 

“We need to stop centering all of our student advocacy around special interest senators and our different senators,” Chávez said. “We need to understand that we only represent about 150 students on a 20,000 undergraduate student campus. We need to better understand that senate isn’t the best way to approach engaging students, and it shouldn’t be the most important one either. We need to take a more proactive stance in going to different clubs and organizations, centering different meetings with all different organizations, instead of just expecting our senators to be the only resource available.” 

The candidates were then asked, given that it is unlikely that they will accomplish all of their goals, which initiatives they would focus on first or which they see as their highest priority. 

Jorio and Chávez believe that they will be able to accomplish all of the goals that they have laid out in their platform, even if not all of their specific action items are approved by the administration. 

“The agenda that we have set out for ourselves I think is 100% accomplishable,” Chávez said. “We set out three primary promises in our ABCs — Achieving Actionable Accountability, Bursting the Bureaucratic Bubble and Centering Community Concerns — and that is what we’re going to be focusing on if we were to be selected as president and vice president.” 

New Horizons emphasized that centering student voices in productive conversations with SGA and administration is the first goal they will focus on from their platform. 

“A lot of problems have arise[n] from students not having enough of a voice, which is why we want to build open forums that involve not just students, but administration,” Tipnis said. “That is our number one priority, understanding the importance and the power of student voices.” 

In closing, both slates restated their goal of centering student voices, though each takes a different approach. 

“One of the most important things that we’ve tried to structure our campaign around and all our platform promises, is that it’s not the job of the people to form around the government, it’s the job of the government to form around the people,” Chávez said. 

Sodergren and Tipnis also refocused on their Empower, Engage, Evolve platform and how it involves the entire student body and surrounding area. 

“Empower, Engage, Evolve were and are about you, our students,” Tipnis said. “At the end of the day, we want you to have a Northeastern where communication is encouraged, transparency is expected and accessibility is required.” 

Although both slates have different approaches to changing SGA for the better, there are no hard feelings between the two.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge why we’re all here, and it’s because we share a common passion,” Tipnis said. “We share a passion for advocacy, we share a passion for making change.” 

Voting for the next student body president and executive vice president will began March 14 on the Student Hub

Editor’s note: Angelica Jorio, one of the presidential candidates for this year’s SGA elections, is the former design editor for The News. 

Srishti Gummaraju contributed to the reporting of this article.