Sun. Jun 7th, 2020

Editorial Board Endorses Student Government Candidates

Each year, the Editorial Board of the Old Gold & Black interviews all of the candidates running for executive positions in Student Government. As we were unable to meet each candidate in person, we conducted the interviews using Zoom. During these interviews, we also recorded a two-minute video pitch to be posted on our website and asked questions regarding their platforms and goals for their prospective positions. 

After completing these interviews, the Editorial Board made the following endorsements:

In the race for Student Government President, all three candidates — junior Laura Horton, junior Miles Middleton and junior Toki Hong — presented robust and thoughtful ideas that addressed the realities of COVID-19, as well as their plans to improve Student Government and the campus as a whole. After discussing each candidates’ platform and conducting a majority vote, the Editorial Board has decided to endorse Middleton. 

Middleton promotes a vision for Wake Forest that highlights not only the university’s strengths, but works to combat and fix its weaknesses. He understands where the university can grow, and his plans are created to address these issues. Specifically, his focus on civic engagement in building a relationship with Winston-Salem State University aligns with his desire to continue discussions surrounding inclusion and diversity on campus. Similarly, his plans to work closely with the SAFE Office, Women’s Center and LGBTQ Center compliment his ability to engage with the desires and concerns of the entire student body. As Speaker of the House, Middleton has prepared himself to take on the office of the president — and understands the power that individual voices bring to Student Government. 

After hearing Horton’s platform, we were immediately impressed by the breadth and depth of her ideas. Specifically, we found her plan to hold Town Halls in order to facilitate conversation between students, senators, faculty and administrators to be extremely innovative in addressing communication issues. Further, her previous experience as Secretary would surely lend itself well to the position of President. Horton received a minority of the vote. 

Hong, who also ran for President last year, spoke to us with an earnestness and genuineness that is rare not only amongst politicians, but a lot of the world. Calling himself a “man of the people,” he highlighted his desire to increase transparency and inclusion in both Student Government and the larger university community. Although we were moved by his passion, we would have liked to learn more about the specifics of his platform. 

For Speaker of the House, each of the three candidates, junior Jenna Mayer, junior Matthew McIlwain and sophomore Ally Swartzberg, delivered insightful responses to our questions. In a staff vote of the three candidates, we were unable to determine a majority endorsement, as Mayer and McIlwain split the votes equally among the staff. We have therefore chosen to endorse both of them for the position. 

Mayer’s platform focuses heavily on enacting pragmatic changes, such as providing a community service option for parking tickets, moving reading days to weekdays and hiring more counselors for the University Counseling Center. Mayer has proven her ability to enact similar changes during her three years serving in Student Government as a senator, a member of the cabinet and most recently as Speaker of the House pro-tempore. Additionally, Mayer’s relationships with key administrators will help her to be an effective member of the Executive Board. 

McIlwain’s deep understanding of the role of the speaker as a mediator, as well as his recognition of the power and leverage of Student Government as a whole was particularly impressive. His platform focuses mostly on structural changes in the senate, such as limiting unproductive internal debates on bills and increasing senator retention rates to ensure that each class is adequately represented. He also adequately addressed the need to ensure students have a smooth transition back to campus post-COVID-19, specifically from a mental health perspective. We are confident that he would approach the Speaker of the House position with tenacity and grace. 

Swartzberg’s multi-ethnic and multi-faith background make her a unique candidate to address issues of diversity and inclusion, which she has done extensively during her time in Student Government as co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Although we appreciated her candor, we would have liked to learn more about how she would also address other concerns currently facing the university. 

The Editorial Board has made the decision to withhold an endorsement for the position of Secretary. As candidate and sophomore Caroline Walker is a member of our Editorial Board, we have concluded that this is the ethical choice in order to avoid any conflict of interest. Walker did not participate in the interviewing or decision making process for other endorsements. However, we will still note our thoughts on each candidate. 

Sophomore Maya Dalton’s focus on mental health and sexual assault prevention as both a senator and candidate highlights her desire to better the Wake Forest community. We appreciated her goal to create a more relaxed and equitable environment within Student Government, and were impressed by her previous work as a chair of the Physical Planning Committee, as well as the Public Relations Committee. 

With a true problem solver attitude, sophomore Dave Myatt also positions himself well to take on the role of Secretary. Of all the candidates we interviewed, Myatt was most transparent about the retention problems facing Student Government. While being honest about an internal challenge, he also presented a plan to fix it. His goals to improve student life align with his previous experience as a chair of the Student Organizations Council (SOC). 

Walker also presented herself as a well-rounded candidate. With both her passion for sustainability and role as a chair of the Academic Committee under her belt, Walker is well equipped to take on the role of Secretary. We also enjoyed her “Lap of Understanding” idea, which would allow different groups on campus to meet for informal discussions. 

As the race for Treasurer is uncontested this year, we have decided to endorse junior Victoria Parker. Parker has served on the Student Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC) since her sophomore year. This past year she was co-chair of the committee, making her the point person for SBAC representatives. Parker presented detailed plans to create clearer guidelines on what organizations can ask for in their budgets and contingency funding. We appreciated her experience on SBAC and her plans to hold optional workshops for organization treasurers. 

The Editorial Board of the Old Gold & Black was honored to (virtually) meet with the wide range of candidates this year and recognize all their strong abilities, as well as their desire to make positive change happen in our campus community. We wish each candidate the best of luck in their campaign.