SG officers-elect look forward to year of new opportunities

With Dr. Susan Wente set to take office in July, SG’s newly-elected officers have bold plans


Speaker of the House Ally Swartzberg was elected president, Speaker Pro-Tempore Braden Strackman was elected speaker, Senator Cate Pitterle was elected secretary and Senator Brooke Blair was elected treasurer.

Aine Pierre and Essex Thayer

After a tumultuous year marked by COVID-19, shortages in the Counseling Center and the announcement of a new president, the student body has elected a slate of student government officers to tackle the challenges of the 2021-2022 Academic Year.

With 889 votes (60.5% of voters), Speaker of the House Ally Swartzberg was elected student body president over Senator Caroline Wright, who received 27.6% of the vote and student activist Pheng Pickett, who received 7%. Speaker Pro-Tempore Braden Strackman defeated Senator Ethan Wearner to become the next speaker; the vote totals in that election were 915 for Strackman and 368 for Wearner, a 37-point victory. Senators Brooke Blair and Cate Pitterle won uncontested elections for treasurer and secretary, respectively.

Turnout in the election was down more than 25 points from last year. In that election, almost 2000 students voted, compared to fewer than 1500 this year. Chair of the Elections Committee Victoria Parker suggested that this could be because the races this year were not as hotly contested as last year, and two were not contested at all.

“I think the election went as well as it could have,” Parker said.

Another possible reason for the lack of turnout is students’ sense that they did not know the candidates well enough. In a recent Old Gold & Black poll of 200+ students, 48% of students, a plurality, indicated they did not know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision. However, only 12% of respondents said they did not intend to vote.

The new executive officers all have close connections with one another, having previously worked alongside each other in Student Government. 

Swartzberg, for her part, believes that the executive board will be a “close-knit group.”

“Literally five minutes after we were elected, someone made a group chat and we’re all texting in it,” she said.

Strackman echoed that sentiment.

I’m very excited,” the speaker-elect said. “I know everyone on [the executive board] very well. I’ve worked with all of them before. I’m excited for what the future holds.”

For Swartzberg, her first priorities involve tapping into the student voice, which is especially important considering that President-designate Dr. Susan Wente will be taking office in July.

“Running for president was so much about loving Wake Forest, but also acknowledging that it isn’t perfect,” Swartzberg said. “Before August hits us, we need to be working together to talk about what we want to ask for … so we can say, ‘hey, we’ve done the work, and this is what needs to happen.’”

Another of Swartzberg’s priorities include focusing on increasing the efficiency of the Counseling Center and Title IX Center on campus.

“I was on the Counseling Center Director Hiring Committee, so that’s something I’ll probably focus on because that’s more of an immediate shift,” Swartzberg said.

Swartzberg also wants Wake Forest to develop a vaccination plan that does not include the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after it was pulled by the FDA and CDC earlier this week.

Swartzberg also took time to comment on the recent murder of Daunte Wright by police in Minneapolis, which has sparked renewed conversations about racial equity and police brutality.

“I really hesitated to put anything out on my social media this week related to the killing because I didn’t want it to seem like it was a campaign thing, because it’s certainly not,” Swartzberg said. “One of the first things I intend to do, just as a person on campus, is to make sure our students of color feel supported.”

Pitterle, the only underclassman on the executive board, has bold ambitions for her term as secretary.

“I want to start expanding how Student Government interacts with the student body,” Pitterle said. “I want people to know how we serve the student body and what we can do, especially with a new presidential administration led by Wente.”

And Blair, for her part, wants to focus on helping students navigate the transition back to normal.

“[My first priority is] helping students get back to normal in the transition process for next year [and] helping organizations with their meetings and finances.”

Senator elections were also held this week, the winners of those elections are listed below in order of votes received.

Class of 2024: Emma Sabin, Gabi Overcast-Hawks, Caroline Dixon, Jackson Buttler, Khalil Gueye, Abby Lecrone, Sydnie Cockerham, Arman Bozkurt, Tim Erday, Aarya Deshmukh, Michaela Fay, Jack Lewis, Melissa Carver and Michael Burstein.

Class of 2023: Jess Schmidt, Isaiah Little, Sarah Dalton, Pilar Agudelo, Tonia Christou, Drew Skilton, Ava Liberty, Gaby de la Vega, Robbie Graf, Di Wang and Marion Teshome.

Class of 2022: Rory Britt, Gavy Zenoz, Vivian Bolen and Will Harnice.

The incoming Class of 2025 will elect its senators next fall.