By Shawn Ness | September 25, 2023
SA President Rose hugging Sarah Jamil after her victory
Photo Credit: Maceo Foster / ASP
After one round of voting, the University at Albany’s Student Association (SA) elected Sarah Jamil as the new Senate Vice Chair during their Wednesday meeting. Jamil received exactly two-thirds of the vote.
Prior to the election, Senate Chair Erin McGrath and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Tolu Anjorin conducted the swearing-in of the body’s 14 newly-elected members, where each member had to take their Oath of Office.
The race was between four candidates other than Jamil: newly-elected Off-Campus Senator Dylan Klein, At-Large Senator Jeremy Zheng, and At-Large Senator Sidney Wheeler.
“I'm still in shock. I would have never imagined that I would even win but get two-thirds of round one. I think it was a very competitive race,” Jamil said after the election. “I think it was a very competitive race. Dylan, Jeremy, and Sidney are all amazing candidates and had great ideas… I’m very excited for this year to deliver on all my goals.”
“I’m incredibly proud of the way that the body conducted themselves, because of all of the chair and vice chair elections that I have witnessed, none of them were as cordial as this one,” Chairwoman McGrath said after the election. “I think Jamil has such amazing potential as the Vice Chair and I can’t wait to work with her to continue to have meetings like this that are respectful, productive, and a little fun. I am looking forward to working with her to find out what every single person in this room cares about, and we want to help them with it.”
The election, which was presided over by the Elections Commission, began with nominations. The nominee must agree to be put forth. Once nominations are closed, the candidates give an opening statement. After opening statements, the candidates are asked questions, the first round of questions is posed by members of the Executive Branch and the Comptroller, and then the floor is opened to other Senators. A motion to move to debate can happen during this time.
During her opening statements, Jamil noted that she has coined the term “collaboration convention,” which would serve the sole purpose of increasing engagement between Senators so they can get to know one another better. Jamil also announced her plan to institute a Senate dropbox, which is a term she said she has also coined that would allow students to make anonymous suggestions to SA. Klein also made mention of instituting a Senate dropbox in his opening remarks prior to Jamil’s. He also stressed the need for the body to learn Robert’s Rules of Order more thoroughly so members can conduct themselves more appropriately.
Zheng also ran on the platform of developing stronger relationships between Senators, although he proposed to do this by hosting a video game night, as well as a more general collaboration zone.
A recess was called after the first round of questions posed by the executives concluded. Zheng did not return after this recess.
“I did not learn how to speak until I was three years old. As a Senator, I am passionate about making changes here on campus and making sure that student’s voices are heard. But when I stood up there that night [during the election], I couldn’t help but think that I was a failure and I was not good enough in comparison to the other candidates,” Zheng told the ASP after the meeting ended. “The stress of the questions that were going to be asked made me feel like I was going to have a mental breakdown… I did what was right for me and my mental health and so I made the ultimate decision to step down from the election.”
During Senator Wheeler’s opening remarks, he made note of three things he wanted to implement as Vice-Chair: engagement, transparency, and accountability. Wheeler demanded increased transparency for voting records and bills within SA, increased engagement among Senators and their constituents, and training to help Senators “uplift your voice in the world.”
Humanities Senator Timothy Goldsmith asked the candidates what their relationship would look like with Senate Chair McGrath; all candidates stressed the importance of maintaining a good relationship with the Senate Chair and that the Vice-Chair’s role is to assist the Chair in their duties.
Jamil standing next to Senate Chair Erin McGrath during the closing roll call
Photo Credit: Maceo Foster / ASP
“I believe I have a decent relationship with Chairwoman McGrath, and I am really keen to work with her and to stand up to her when necessary,” Wheeler said. “According to SA’s bylaws, the Vice-Chair’s role is entirely to assist the Chair with their duties and fill in for them when necessary. So the Chair and Vice-Chair have to be very much intertwined. You have to be able to work well together because every project that passes is between the two of them.”
“The relationship between the Chair and Vice-Chair is an important one that sets the tone for the entire year. I believe that the relationship, philosophically, should be professional, and be able to assist the Chair in their duties,” Klein said. “It’s also about helping other Senators and committees and making sure that they are running smoothly… They should also make sure that they are being of help to not just the Chair, but the body and their constituents at large.”
“I believe that the relationship between the Chair and the Vice Chair should be one that is complementary. It should be the vice chair is just a second chair but they complement the Chair's abilities,” Jamil said. “I believe that I will complement our chair very well. As our chair is great at providing resources and ensuring senators have what they need to facilitate, facilitate change.”
All Candidates expressed the need for increased voter engagement and turnout, and the need to spread the word on what SA is and develop deeper relationships between Senators and their constituents.
After questions were opened up to the remaining Senators, Senator Goldsmith asked the candidates how they would conduct themselves if they were to lose.
“Well, civilly, I hope,” Wheeler said. “I believe that every Senator has a duty to be active. If I don’t win this election, you can bet that I’ll be talking in every meeting, active in creating bills, and trying my best to create resources for everyone.”
“If I do lose this election tonight, and I have already discussed this with the other candidates, I am fully confident in whoever our Vice-Chair is going to be and that we will have a successful year,” Klein said. “You know what to expect from me, pumping out bills last year. I will remain active, I will still be staying up until 5:00 a.m. to write my resolutions.”
“If I don’t win this election tonight, I will remain optimistic,” Jamil said. “I know that I’ll still be able to deliver on my goals and create the change that I wish to see as Vice-Chair.”
After the Senators were allowed to ask questions; Chairwoman McGrath made a motion to move into debate, which was then seconded by Senator Selwa Khan.
During debates, Senator Goldsmith called Klein a “controversial figure,” but that it would not stop him from voting for him, “... that does not stand in the way that he is dedicated to helping the students. We should be looking at people’s merits, not conjecture.”
During McGrath’s debate point, she called back to her earlier question about if candidates need the Vice Chair position to accomplish their goals. “For Senator Klein and Wheeler, their plans are already something that I am already doing [as Senate Chair]. One of my main concerns about the candidates is their ability to be approachable by the Senators. I know that Senator Jamil is an incredibly compassionate and open-minded person and I have no doubts that others in this room would feel comfortable going to see her about issues. I can’t say the same for Senators Klein or Wheeler.”
Senator Goldsmith made a point about McGrath’s comments saying that they really moved him. “My points were completely ignorant and I fully admit that on the floor. I am kind of on the fence again when it comes to Senator Klein. And remember, I was the one who nominated Senator Klein in the first place. I have no doubt that Senator Klein is passionate, he wants to have his constituents' voices heard. It’s important to have that, but at the same time, it is also important to be compassionate and approachable.”
Apart from the elections, during President Jalen Rose and Vice President Amelia Crawford’s Executive report, they both expressed excitement about their new team of executive directors. Crawford mentioned that she has confirmed the lineup of bands for the upcoming DippiFest. The festival will include six bands with both indie rock and rap music.
Senator Wheeler introduced a bill to appoint new members of SA to sit on the University Auxiliary Board, which is the group that decides where the university dining halls and the Campus Center get their food from; whether it be Sodexo or another provider. The appointees were Director of Disability and Health Erica Strand, At-Large Senator James Cooper and Jeremy Zheng, and Noah Marzouk. All appointees were handpicked by President Rose.