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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Meet the spring 2024 executive branch election candidates

Voting opens March 25 at 12 p.m.

Editor’s Note: Some responses have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

This week all American University undergraduate students can vote in the elections for Student Government executive board candidates on Engage. Voting is open from March 25 at 12 p.m. to March 29 at 12 p.m. 

Candidates running for executive positions answered The Eagle’s questions about their platforms and hopes for the University moving forward. All candidates received the same questions and responded through email. Below are their responses.

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Anshul Shukla (Left) Arusa Islam (Right)

Student body president candidates: Arusa Islam (junior in the School of Public Affairs) and Anshul Shukla (sophomore in SPA and Kogod School of Business)

Why are you running?

Islam: I am running for President because I want to be a leader that helps other leaders thrive on our campus. I want to advocate for our students and their rights on our campus. Our campus is divided now more than ever, and I believe that I can be an individual that will be able to unify our student body. 

Shukla: I am running because our school needs to unify under our commonalities of being AU students. Whether in intercultural groups, Greek life, athletics or any other organization, you will have a voice with me. Another issue that is important to me is ensuring that our tuition dollars are being used to ensure that your campus experience is enjoyable. This is important because our university should be using the increased funding for the student body, not to line their pockets. 

What do you think you bring to the position you’re running for?

Islam: Over my time in Student Government, first as senator of the College of Arts and Sciences and now as vice president, I have built great connections with the student body and with administration. I want to continue this work as president and represent that students even further. 

Shukla: I bring specific organizational skills that the chief advocacy officer requires. As your Student Activity Council co-chair, I have learned much about productive communication. I can transfer this skill when talking with the administration to advocate on behalf of the student body. Specifically, I have joined several conversations with the administration as the senior special projects manager for Spirit and Traditions Board and the Student Activity Council co-chair to ensure that our students' needs are met. 

What specific issues is your campaign advocating for?

Islam: My campaign is focused on advocacy, inclusivity, collaboration, transparency and sustainability. 

Shukla: My three campaign pillars are protecting student rights, uplifting student voices and ensuring student security. That is why, as president, I will hold regularly scheduled listening sessions where I will share all feedback with incoming president Jon Alger. Next, it is time for AU to reverse the protest ban; this policy is damaging and goes against our institution’s values. … Finally, our blue light systems are currently experiencing several outages, making students vulnerable to danger. As president, I want to work with the administration to ensure a blue light is always available and expand the blue lights to Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues, where several students reside off campus. 

What do you hope to implement or bring to Student Government?

Islam: I want our campus to be a healthy and inclusive environment for all students. The students at AU have so much talent, resilience and strength — qualities that set us apart from other student bodies in D.C. As the president, I want to help students become even stronger leaders, allies and advocates. 

Shukla: I want to create a hotline for all students to forward their issues directly to the student body president. As your AUSG President, your voice must be heard. If we can effectively gauge the problems within the student body, I can ensure that the administration takes the proper steps to address these problems. Next, I will encourage the incoming president Jon Alger, and other senior campus leaders to learn about our campus frequently, talk to students and explain how they will make our campus experience more inclusive, accessible and safe. 

What do you want the student body to know about you and your platform before voting?

Islam: I would like the student body to know that when the outside world impacts the daily lives of our students on campus and changes are made, they need to feel confident in the student body representatives they choose to elect. By electing me as president, they will be choosing a president that has the confidence and experience to tackle any and all problems our campus may face. I am ready and honored to represent the American University student body as their president. 

Shukla: … with an outsider perspective, I will bring new insights and approaches to address the several spaces for growth or opportunities that our campus will face. I am also committed to ensuring that every voice has some representation with me because my ultimate goal is to guarantee inclusivity at all levels of SG. … I also want to acknowledge the pretenses surrounding this election: our campus is divided. … However, I am a uniter. I pledge to you today that I will work with all stakeholders involved in our university to move forward as a campus….As your president, I will ensure that all groups on our campus have a peer, a friend, an ally and, most importantly, a voice as your president.

Vice president candidate: Julia Comino (junior in the School of Communication and SPA)


Why are you running? 

Comino: I am running to continue my work to implement the policies and procedures of the Survivor Bill of Rights. I think that SG can step up to advocate for the protection of student’s rights.

What do you bring to the position you are running for? 

Comino: I am incredibly grateful to have been able to work with survivor organizations, like No More and AU It’s On Us, to put on programming events this year like our Safe Sex Trivia Event, Domestic Violence Awareness Month event series and resource tabling. Survivors of sexual violence have been tirelessly working to better the support systems and sexual violence prevention measures on campus. I am proud to be a part of this community of advocates, and I think that it is through working with student organizers that SG can best represent student’s needs.

What specific issues are you advocating for in your campaign? 

Comino: I am advocating specifically for the implementation of the Survivor Bill of Rights and the installation of protest and poster policies that uplift student advocacy instead of stifling it.

What do you hope to implement or bring to Student Government?

Comino: I look forward to collaborating with student organizations on campus to host productive events next year. I will continue to focus on ensuring students’ rights and safety through programming, like Narcan training and information sessions on how adjudicative processes like Title IX and Student Conduct work. … I have always believed and said, SG is a tool. I promise to use it to uplift students and survivors.

What do you want the student body to know about you and your platform before voting?

Comino: Everyone in SG is just another student. We aren’t politicians, and our power comes from the students we represent. If you have an issue you want addressed and feel comfortable reaching out, please email, DM, or come up and talk with me or another member of SG. … If you need change, please feel that I am someone who can help you make it…

Comptroller candidate: Salvatore Cottone (junior in SPA and Kogod)

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Why are you running? 

Cottone: I am running for student body comptroller and chief financial officer of Student Government because I understand how crucial the role of comptroller is for advocating on behalf of the AU student body to the Board of Trustee Committees and administration regarding all financial matters and concerns on behalf of AU students. I am running because I see this role as an opportunity to contribute to the betterment of student life at AU and to ensure our spending and budget are allocated in the most transparent way possible to ensure financial accountability. 

What do you bring to the position you are running for? 

Cottone: As a student who started off my leadership journey as an organizer for the Sunrise Movement at AU which gave me vital advocacy skills and empathy, then elected senator at-large and now serving as the speaker pro-tempore of the Undergraduate Senate, I will bring the utmost interdisciplinary experience to the Office of the Comptroller. I also have the knowledge of how we achieved carbon neutrality and fossil fuel divestment …  which allows me to know the direct route for implementation of new sustainable goals. 

What specific issues are you advocating for in your campaign? 

Cottone: I am running on a platform that is addressing the top issues that solely involve the role of Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer on behalf of the student body such as Huron, the demands of the AU Green New Deal and financial transparency in regards to our University. I want our finances to be as transparent to AU students as much as possible and that our SG budget isn't spent on events that have failed and were exclusive in the past like SG galas.

What do you hope to implement or bring to Student Government?

Cottone: I hope to advocate and implement the demands of several student advocacy groups that would involve the comptroller such as decarbonization and sustainable financial and investment decisions made by the University that must be transparent to our politically active and progressive community. ... I hope to create a division of student researchers in the Comptroller's Cabinet to help with creating reports on top campus issues that would be delivered to the highest levels of the University administration for consideration.

What do you want the student body to know about you and your platform before voting?

Cottone: I want the student body to know that I am deeply committed to serving as a responsible steward of their resources and advocating for their interests with integrity and transparency. My platform is not just about making promises but about taking concrete and progressive actions to improve the student experience at AU and to ensure progressive campus organizers and activists are not shut out of the conversations — we need them now more than ever.

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Secretary candidate: Aidan Palmer (sophomore in SPA and the College of Arts and Sciences)

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Why are you running? 

Palmer: I am running for SG secretary because I think we need more people who believe in 

the core mission of student government, which is advocacy. Too many people get 

involved in SG for the wrong reasons. I think the current secretary has done a great 

job of bringing the voices of the student body to administration and that is a legacy I 

hope to carry on.

What do you think you bring to the position you are running for? 

Palmer: The position of secretary is about reaching out to and communicating with the student body. Over the course of my time at AU I have been involved in a number of organizations which have required me to interact with so many students across campus. I believe that I have a unique ability to connect with all of our students, not just a certain clique. 

What specific issues is your campaign advocating for? 

Palmer: Our campus is going through a lot right now, and I think that our executive board needs to be focused on what students care about. I personally care deeply about campus affordability, and will use my platform as secretary to work with administration and other partners around campus to implement policies such as a laundry allowance that will make things on campus more financially accessible for all students. I will also be focused on the recent policies that the administration implemented to crack down on campus speech. I believe that all students and organizations have the right to free speech, and I hope to work on the implementation of the senate’s resolution calling for the retraction of these policies.

What do you hope to implement or bring to Student Government?

Palmer: The main issue I will be focused on as secretary is transparency. If people around 

campus don’t know what SG is doing on a day-to-day basis, why would they be 

interested in voting in elections or caring about it at all? I plan on doing a 

weekly recap summarizing things like planned events, policies and general updates 

from the executive board. I think that this will be a great way to connect with the 

student body on a broader scale outside of the traditional email format that has not 

engaged students.

What do you want the student body to know about you and your platform before voting?

Palmer: I’d like the student body to know that I see SG as an important part of our campus community, but that it is by no means the only thing I will be focusing on. I think it’s important that SG members understand that our roles are first and foremost as students, and that we shouldn’t forget that part of our lives. I will continue to be involved in other ways on campus, including as an AU Ambassador, in club sports, in a’cappella and elsewhere. That being said, I will absolutely be available to meet with any student who wants to talk to me. It’s important that our executive board members be accessible to the people we are meant to represent. 

This article was edited by Kathryn Squyres, Abigail Turner, and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks and Isabelle Kravis. 

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