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Former Senator Does Not Receive Nomination to Election Commission

By Shawn Ness | April 29, 2024

Members of the Student Association during the meeting.

Photo Credit: Shawn Ness / The ASP

Many senators of the University at Albany Student Association believed the former senator hand-picked by the Vice President for Student Affairs was ill-suited to the position. 

Former Senator Jeremy Zheng was nominated by Dr. Christakis to join the SA Elections Commission, which is in charge of overseeing and moderating all elections-related matters. 

Zheng resigned from SA earlier this year after a fiery meeting in which the Director of Programming and Marketing, Caleb Sapp, called Zheng out directly on the floor for an interaction they had, which the ASP reported on in February.  

When the nomination bill was considered on the floor and Zheng’s name was announced, Sapp seemed to audibly sigh, prompting many members to call a point of order and resulting in SA Chair Erin McGrath calling for Sapp to remain quiet and respectful. 

Sapp was not allowed to participate in the debates because of his position as a director.

Some of the members thought that Zheng would not be able to handle the pressure of the Elections Commission, citing his tumultuous departure as evidence that he’s unable to handle criticism.

“That [Elections Commission] branch can take a lot of heat and a lot of criticism, especially during peak election periods. Based on our Q&A with the nominee [in a meeting], we do not feel confident that he is able to handle the criticism in a productive manner and we do not believe that he should be one of the nominees for this committee and we should consider alternate placements.” Trevor Pettit, the chair of the Committee on Constituent Relations, said. 

Senator Selwa Khan moved to correct Pettit, stating that what Zheng experienced during his departure was not criticism but “nastiness.” Rules and Administration Chair Dylan Klein agreed and said that the events that transpired before Zheng’s resignation were disappointing. 

However, some members had concerns. Newly-elected Senator and former SA president Enid Walker explained that she was concerned about Zheng not being able to separate his past experiences with the body and remain an unbiased member of the commission. 

“For something like the elections commission, where we need people who are unbiased, that should be maybe students who don't really have relationships with people currently in the body,” Walker said. “A lot of us are probably going to run again and he already has relationships with a lot of us. And I feel like that might be a point of contention for this position.” 

Klein was the sponsor of the bill, and once people made their voices heard, he spoke out in favor of the nominee. 

“If Dr. Michael Christakis believes this individual can do the job, who are we to say that Dr. Christakis, who has been selecting the nominees since his tenure as vice president of student affairs, that we shouldn't take his recommendation? Jeremy has been a very dedicated and selected leader to not only this community, but the Albany community at large.”

Senator Nic Feldman shared Klein’s sentiments and said that Zheng would bring a unique set of talents to the commission.

“The nominee comes in with a very unique perspective because he's ran a campaign before so he's actually experienced it which I think is very important for the Elections Commission,” Feldman said. 

Zheng was not present at the meeting but watched the livestream as the debate unfurled. Zheng told the ASP that he was disappointed in what occurred during the meeting and by comments some members made who he considered friends. 

“I was happy to see people that knew me well and understood how hard I worked to address campus-wide issues when I served in the Senate and showed empathy towards me and my situation,” Zheng told the ASP in an Instagram message. “I’ve always been passionate about being involved in Student Government, but I never expected to be treated like this like the work I’ve done throughout my time didn’t matter.”

The nomination did not pass with the necessary threshold of two-thirds voting in favor. Thirteen people voted for the nomination, seven voted against it, and six members abstained. The two-thirds majority were not met.

The other commission nominees, however, were confirmed. Ryan Goldstein’s and Isabella Blauvelt-Mercado’s nominations were both confirmed via unanimous consent. 

Christakis did pick another candidate, Brendan Cooper, in case a nominee was not confirmed. 

Klein motioned to remove his name as the sponsor of the bill and said he was not in favor of the nominee being confirmed and wished for a confirmation hearing. 

Cooper's nomination to the commission was approved with 23 voting in favor, one abstention, and Klein and Senator Gabe Kitt voting against it.

Klein said he was ashamed of the actions of the body during the meeting for not approving the nominee.


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