By Hope Taylor
Following last week’s extremely competitive and close executive board elections, Rachel Ding and Nick Paschetto were voted in as next year’s President and Vice President of SGA respectively.
Along with Rachel and Nick, Elijah Arkanum, Tvisha Bhatnagar, Christina Boehme, Sam Lucius, and Molina Zhang were voted in as Sophomore Senators. Sunwoo Park and Stephanie Lee were also voted in as College Council Continuee and SGA Continuee respectively.
Rachel and Nick agreed to do a sit-down interview with the Spokesman to let the Oxford community learn more about themselves, their plans for next year, and what they are looking forward to. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell the Oxford community more about yourself.
Nick: I’m from Dunwoody, Georgia, which is on the north side of Atlanta. Here at Oxford, I play on the golf team and it’s something I really enjoy. If I had to describe myself I would say I’m a fun person who enjoys talking to people and I’m really excited to make a change here at Oxford and to do something really cool over the course of this year with Rachel and all the people on our team.
Rachel: I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama (Roll Tide). I think my geographical and cultural background really makes me who I am. I think it’s really random that I’m from Alabama but I think I’m the person I am today because of it. Coming to Oxford, it is in the south but it’s completely different. I love the environment here and I feel like I really belong in this community. I’m just really excited to work with everyone in the future
What are your next steps in SGA?
Rachel: Basically what happens now is we go into the transition process. That’s basically the current administration handing power over to us. We are in the process of recruiting people through selecting the cabinet and we hope to have the full cabinet in the next two weeks.
Nick: Once we figure out our people we will begin to take the next steps and start working on the various initiatives we have in mind. These things are definitely on our radar and as soon as we can we would like to start taking steps to achieve these initiatives and just get the ball rolling and see what we can do ASAP.
Rachel: [After being sworn in], we will appoint the full cabinet and then we will have two meetings with everyone and those will be the first meetings of our administration. Then we will take a break for the summer and in the fall we will jump right into the election of the first year senators.
What is your favorite thing about Oxford?
Rachel: I know this is really cheesy but I feel like it’s everyone’s answer, and it’s everyone’s answer for reason, it’s the people here. I love how connected everyone is. It’s very unifying. I mean it has its pros and cons but in the end, I like the environment where it’s easy to do community-based events. At Oxford, compared to other campuses, it’s really hard to to get everyone to come together at an event for instance like Emory’s Atlanta campus they don’t have a lot of events like [Oxford’s] Asian Culture Club where they can put on a showcase and half the campus comes out.
Nick: I always tell people that my favorite thing is being able to walk the dining hall without texting people in advance and I can just walk in there and I can just look around see who’s there. Any given day I can be sitting with someone different and yet they will still be welcoming and accepting. From the SGA perspective, I’ve heard this from the past administration and I seen this myself, being able to see the change you are affecting because it is such a small community.
When we go out to work on various things, it is so cool to see how things are happening and on a larger scale you might not be able to see the things you are doing so immediately.
If you could achieve one huge idea next year what would it be? What small step do you think you could take to begin to achieve this?
Nick: My biggest thing throughout the process was just health in general and foremost in that I think is mental health. Just because I think we’ve all seen there are issues with mental health on the Oxford campus. That isn’t just limited to Oxford, I think that is something that is common at different schools but I think looking at how Oxford can address it specifically is something that both of us are really committed to. I also think there are a lot of improvements that can be made to the CHL and other facilities that would facilitate in making campus healthier. I think both mental and physical health are two things that I’m really committed to this year.
Rachel: For me, it is two things. One is that everyone likes to talk about this Atlanta/Oxford divide and it is a really, really big long-term goal for everyone that we can’t just solve in a second. One small step we can take is just by implementing an Oxford tour at Atlanta when first-years go to the Atlanta campus during Orientation. Oxford students need a comprehensive tour of the Atlanta campus because when Oxford students do go to Atlanta they don’t know where to go, they get lost, they don’t know how to go to the library or to stacks. I think that this is the first thing to really tell the students and say, look these are the resources that you have access to and this is your campus too. The second thing is increasing the quality of life at Oxford. I think to make sure that the CLC [campus life center] is built on time and also making the space available for just students to live in to come together and because more community spaces and more spaces for students to just be themselves is going to improve the quality life on campus.
Nick: To build off of both of those things, the Emory/Oxford divide and bridging that gap, I think we are in a really good spot this year. We have Ben Palmer [recently elected Atlanta SGA president] who went to Oxford and then also across the divisional councils there is there’s a lot of Oxford continues across positions. We are in a really good spot this year to continue trying to bridge the gap at an administration level with them and through SGA.
Rachel: I’ve attended CLC meetings where the administration is basically asking students how should we build this, what is this for, and essentially what is going to happen is that the CLC is going to become this hub for events. If students just want to meet up they are going to be going to the CLC and the library is going to be more focused as individual study space.
Rachel, throughout the campaign you referred to the need to reform the monetary code. Could you briefly explain what the monetary code is and why it needs reformation?
Rachel: The monetary code is a governing document that provides rules and guidelines to SGA for how to budget. So it’s kind of like financial laws for SGA. For instance, it tells us this certain event we can only allocate this amount of money or how to pick what events to fund. It really offers a guide to SGA to efficiently budget. If we didn’t have this, [funding] would just be all subjective and it really makes us more objective. The problem with the monetary code is not that it’s bad, it’s that because Oxford has such a high turn out rate, change happens very quickly. We realized last fall we had a surplus of 10,000 dollars. This is directly from the students’ tuition. Every student pays a thing called the student activity fee each semester that is 92 dollars and you’re paying it to SGA so that the SGA can turn it around to benefit the students through funding clubs, initiatives, and things like that. It’s supposed to benefit the students, but last fall we found that $10,000 is not being used or going back to the students.
My goal is to reform the monetary code to be a fluid document that can be changed according to how the campus is and how often it changes. I want to make the rules more liberal, doing things like potentially funding GBM [general body meetings] or creating a way where we don’t only have to have Domino’s pizza at every event. Also, the fact that the monetary code has a lot of unwritten rules, this is something that even the members of SGA don’t really realize, and that some of the rules that we follow are not even written out in the document and I plan on fixing that.
Nick, this past year I know a lot of students knew Dewey was president but were unsure who the VP was. How do you plan on making the position more of a presence on campus?
Nick: First of all shout out to Sameer Kumar! He is currently the vice president and I’m excited to try and follow in his footsteps because he has been an awesome role model. One of my ideas, that I plan to talk more with Rachel about, is having a weekly email and having it be from either one of us. I talked about this at the town hall and about how it is the responsibility of the Vice President to look inward whereas the president is looking outward. Rachel has to deal with a lot of the administrative side of SGA and the context that we have with Deans or other levels of administration. My role, while is not super defined in our legislative documents, is that I chair the inter-club council. I think beyond that is looking outward towards the students and making sure they know what is going on.
I have found that a lot of people don’t know what happens in those meetings [SGA weekly meetings]. They see us in the library but they are not really sure what is happening up there or what we are talking about for three hours at a time which I understand completely. Having been both in the room and being outside the room first semester since I was not apart of SGA, I found out once I was in SGA, I was enlightened to what was going on. I would like to see emails once a week from one of us and I think this would increase the transparency and people might know who I am.
The campaign was filled with lots of interesting ideas from all candidates. Are there any ideas from other candidates you want to try and achieve next year?
Rachel: Yes for sure! I loved all the initiatives that the other candidates had and one specifically that Sid had was really pushing for a printing initiative. The printing initiative is basically this collaborative initiative with the other divisional councils of SGA. Some people may not know this, but SGA on the Atlanta campus is an overall head body that oversees different divisional councils. SGA is at the top and below is the College Council, which oversees ECAS, Emory Student Nursing Association, Goizueta, and Oxford. These four are going to be working together with [Atlanta’s] SGA as well as the administration to provide free printing essentially for students. Oxford is going to be playing a part in that we will be contributing money as it is a collaborative effort for the divisional councils as well as the provost office, which will help us fund this initiative.
Nick: I would also echo that. I honestly cannot think of any specific things that come to mind at the moment but I really liked a lot of the candidates’ overall visions for Oxford. I think everyone was very level headed throughout the election process and I want to thank all of them for an enjoyable election and I’m glad everyone was very good spirited throughout it all.
What are you most excited for the next year?
Nick: I’m excited to meet the new first-years and to pump some new faces in here. I’m excited to see who ends up on SGA and who’s doing cool stuff outside with clubs. Through stuff in the office of enrollment services I talked to students who were admitted and just making their decisions and hearing their questions, their overall enthusiasm about coming here and seeing what is on the horizon makes me excited for next year. It puts things into perspective just where we are going to be next year as the leaders of our campus and how they’re going to be looking up to us. I think with that comes to a lot of responsibility and I’m excited about that aspect of it.
Rachel: Nick makes a great point. I want to echo that. I’m honestly just curious to see who the first-year are. I’m really excited to see Orientation, Ox Olympics, and all of that from a second-year perspective. . Oxford has this weird dynamic where the second years, although we are underclassmen, we really do feel more of responsibility almost like the seniors, the upperclassmen basically. A lot of my friends are iMentors and I’m just really excited to see and help welcome the first years onto campus.
Is there anything you would like to say to the Oxford community?
Nick: I would just say look out for each other and be intuitive to those around you. Make sure that you are looking out for your friends, loving them, and just being a good person, because I think that is what has made Oxford so great for me so far and I want to continue to see that.