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Monday, June 5, 2023


Senate sweep opens door for cultural change within SGA

A cultural change has swept the Senate.

Students Unite presidential candidate Cameron Barrett was inside Student Center North Friday waiting for the SGA 2018 election results to be announced, along with the rest of his party and dozens of other students running for office.

The Honors College was the first seat called, and a Students Unite senator took the college’s single seat. The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics was called next. Students Unite swept the race, winning three of the four seats.

“When I saw that we swept NSM, I was like, ‘I’m pretty sure this will happen in every college,’” Barett said. “And at that point, I was very confident that I would be first place, but only at that point.”

He was right. Students Unite won 25 of the 37 available Senate seats. The next closest party was Spirit RED, which won six seats. Barrett won the most votes for the presidency, receiving 33 percent with six candidates running.

Barrett, who expected a runoff from the start of the election season, will now face incumbent Winni Zhang from Spirit RED for the 55th administration presidency. Voting ends Wednesday night, and the runoff results will be announced at noon Thursday.

Changing tide

Project Red dominated the 2016 elections, with Zhang winning a Senate seat herself. Spirit RED, the spiritual successor to Project Red, swept last year’s election too.

Current Undergraduate at Large Sen. Valentin Perez said the culture within SGA has been plagued by elitism and nepotism.

“There is always a group of students that control SGA,” Perez said. “They keep that power continuing on until they lose.”

Barrett said even if he lost, the culture change within SGA is complete since Students Unite swept the Senate.

“It’s done,” he said. “Whether I win or lose, and that was a big goal.”

Only one Students Unite candidate lost their election. Barrett said he looked for candidates for his party that were good-hearted, drama-free and had a vision of what they would do in office.

‘It’s not over’

Zhang, who won 26 percent of the presidential votes, managed to win six senate seats. Despite the losses, all the students that ran with Spirit RED are continuing to campaign with Zhang for the runoff.

“The fight is not over. Our party is not done,” Zhang said. “Every single last one of them are dedicated to making sure that their vision, their promises of the students that did vote for them, that their voices are still heard.”

If Zhang loses, she said, she still plans to bring better mental health services before she graduates in the coming year.

“If I’m not in SGA, I’m still going to pursue changes. I still want to continue the work I’ve been doing with mental health,” Zhang said. “I can still use connections (with administrators) to finish out initiatives that I’m passionate about that I promised students since my beginning in SGA.”

Both Zhang and Barrett said they will continue to campaign the same way they have been: by reaching out to students walking around campus and talking to student organizations.

Zhang was endorsed by the Impact Party, led by Christopher Caldwell, on Monday, according to a post on Impact Party’s Facebook page.

The post said Zhang and her running mate True Furrh were “proven leaders and … most qualified to represent the student body.”

Barrett and his running mate Davis Mendoza Darusman were endorsed by former Element Red presidential candidate Vishaal Kuruvanka on his Facebook page.

Getting the hard vote

After the results were announced Friday at the Student Center North, Barrett’s party surrounded him. The usually lax economics graduate student was crying with reddened cheeks.

The Students Unite party headed outside and Barrett made a speech to the party’s senator candidates. Meanwhile, Zhang and her Spirit RED cohorts remained calm, talking quietly on the building’s second floor.

“I was so emotional because there were people in the SGA who were so high up that said, ‘Cameron isn’t presidential. He doesn’t look presidential. He doesn’t sound presidential,’” Barrett said.

Barrett said he was told countless times that the students who drive to and from campus everyday and work while taking classes don’t vote. Election demographics do not reveal those numbers, but Barrett is convinced his campaign brought new students to the polls.

“If you give people a reason to vote, if you can resonate with them on some human level, they’ll vote for you,” Barrett said.

Dana C. Jones contributed reporting. 

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