Amber Simic and Jacob Elsen were elected on Thursday as the freshman class co-presidents. Simic is from London, England and Milwaukee, Wis. and is considering majoring in anthropology, political science or international relations. Elsen is a biology and studio art major from Kennet Square, Penn..
Simic and Elsen ran on a platform of transparency and accessibility. “Our sole purpose as class co-presidents is to be an extension of your voice,” said Simic in their opening statement at Tuesday’s virtual speech and Q&A session. The ticket pitched ideas for increased connection, including a pen pal system during the long winter break and “a campus-wide snowball war when we return—fingers crossed.”
The new co-presidents also emphasized using their platform to bridge the campus community to the student government by listening to what their constituents have to say. “In the end, it doesn’t really matter what we want, because that’s not the job,” said Simic after the win was announced. “I’m really excited to meet all sorts of people and hear people’s ideas about diversity, academics, and what we can do to better connect our communities.”
Simic and Elsen’s win came after an unconventional campaign season, dominated by the words “virtual” and “digital.” Signed petitions, posters plastered around campus and dorm-to-dorm visits were replaced with Instagram campaign profiles and Zoom speeches.
According to senior Daniel Ju, Student Body Vice President and Election Commissioner, these changes to the campaign guidelines were mainly to accommodate “COVID-Safe, Thunder-Strong” procedures. For example, the Student Activities Office replaced print advertisements with an Instagram page, and candidates were encouraged to take advantage of this page while also using their own social media outlets to promote their platform.
“We’re really encouraging candidates to be creative and proactive about how they do these things and to think outside the box,” Ju said.
Ju explained that SG is also in the process of discussing how to best include remote learners in leadership teams this year. In addition to requiring that all SG positions remain open to remote learners, the administration is working to put together a task force of remote learners to advocate for their specific needs. SG is also encouraging the class councils to recruit remote students.
According to Ju, SG has discussed how the possibility of exclusively digital campaigns might give some candidates a competitive edge.
“It poses a disadvantage for someone who isn’t coming into this campaign with a large follower base to begin with,” Ju said. To counteract this, the candidates had to wait to promote their campaign accounts until the election season officially began on September 14.
“These disparities are kind of inherent to any election season, but they’re definitely not an insurmountable difference in where [the candidates] start,” he said. “The fact that the campaign style has shifted reflects well the demands of the role in this new season.”
Simic and Elsen are “beyond thrilled” to begin their service as co-class presidents. “It just brings me so much joy to get to know people, and I can’t wait to help them,” Simic said.
Helen Huiskes contributed to reporting.
Wheaton College, IL