Senior Hayden Sledge and junior Mason Laney were elected student body president and vice president today after running an uncontested campaign. They will assume their positions in fall 2021.
Sledge, a political science major from Alabama, wrote in an email to the Record that she decided to run because she “want[s] to aid in fostering more open conversation, so students are able to assume their own agency and contribute to the Wheaton College community.” Her running mate, Laney, is an economics major, also from Alabama. According to Laney, Sledge’s involvement in Residence Life, in Student Government as freshman co-class president and various clubs on campus makes her “fantastic” for the role of president.
In addition to the presidential races, new class co-presidents were elected for the sophomore, junior, and senior classes, along with a slate of new executive vice presidents, who will meet with committees of students outside of SG to develop proposals to present to the SG board.
The rising junior class elected political science major Connor Woodin and political science and Spanish double major Melissa McCollum as the junior class co-presidents. Running on a platform of “cultivating a Christ-centered community,” the newly elected co-presidents vowed to encourage diversity, accessibility and representation, specifically by implementing regular town hall meetings for their fellow students.
Both senior and sophomore tickets ran unopposed, electing biology major JY Yoon and international relations major Sean Kim as senior class co-presidents and undeclared business economics major Jillian Edwards and undeclared liberal arts engineering major Andrew Kirk as sophomore class co-presidents.
The Student Government (SG) campaigns faced challengingly low numbers of candidates this semester, forcing the SG Election Committee to push back the election date once in hopes of gaining more candidates to fill the empty seats, and a second time to accommodate Quiet Week, which allowed students a rest from schoolwork in lieu of a full spring break. The committee hosted a virtual speech night on March 26, allowing candidates to elaborate on their platforms for the 2021-22 school year. The event, which streamed on YouTube, had 82 unique viewers. This year’s election marks the second year that candidates have been allowed to campaign online.
As part of their platform, Sledge and Laney campaigned for reopening the Forum Wall in Lower Beamer and “other methods of discussion on campus,” creating SG town halls and releasing footage of SG board meetings to the public. Their ticket also advocated for the full return of Bon Appetit’s pre-pandemic dining structure and the fall and spring breaks, among other initiatives. According to their campaign’s Instagram page, they advocated for a platform of “access, outreach, and support.”
Current Student Body Vice President and Election Commissioner Daniel Ju said that the last time the student body candidates for president and vice president campaigned unopposed was 2018, though it is normally an uncommon occurrence. Ju suggested the strain of pandemic precautions and general academic burnout definitely played a factor.
When the campaigns officially began on March 10, six out of the 11 races were uncontested, and four had no candidates at all. Ju explained that the elected president and vice president would appoint members to fill these empty seats if no one were to campaign.
“From a democratic ideals standpoint, the process works best when there are contested elections with differing platforms so students feel that they have different options and can voice their needs in the form of a vote,” said Ju, a senior interdisciplinary studies major.
On March 18, the Election Committee extended the deadline until March 26 for applying to run, urging students to campaign for unfilled positions. The process for applying usually involves sending in a petition with signatures from the Registrar’s Office, the Chaplain’s Office and the Office of Student Development, as well as a petition with at least 100 signatures (300 for student body president and vice president). However, in compliance with COVID-Safe, Thunder-Strong guidelines and to encourage students to run, the SG board voted on March 3 to amend the guidelines for this year to make the campaign and election process online and not require the constituent signatures.
In addition to extending the election timetable, the SG board announced on March 18 that candidates could submit screenshots of their transcripts to prove they had the required GPA of 2.5 or higher until the Registrar’s Office could provide official confirmation of their status as students in good academic standing. After eight days, an updated slate of candidates was announced. All but three races were uncontested.
On April 8, the vote-counting closed at 8 a.m. Sledge and Laney won 650 votes.
“Student government has a lot of potential. It can affect the culture on campus — inculcating and creating and cultivating a culture on campus that is more welcoming and hospitable and open to all,” said Laney, speaking about their platform during the campaign. “And our job — our hope — in running is to try to make [SG] more transparent.”
“Every student at this school should be seen and heard. In order to do this, it is important to foster open discussion between students, student government and the administration,” Sledge told the Record.
The pair expressed their gratitude to the student body for electing them to fill these positions by signing their petition to run. They promised in their March 26 speech on YouTube to be “adamantly committed to representing each and every [student]” by “representing you by hearing and listening to you and valuing each and every one of your experiences.”
In an email to the Record on April 8, Laney said their first goal was to meet with individual current and future SG board members to help prepare for the new year, as well as meeting with current and future student leaders in different offices to “better inform [ourselves] about current initiatives that we can carry forward into next year.”
The newly elected executive vice presidents shared with the Record messages for the student body via email:
EVP of Academic Affairs
Katie Molloy (’24)
“I want to be as accessible and transparent as possible so my door — or my Zoom meeting room — will always be open to listen to you and to talk to you.”
EVP of Wellness
Ella Wickham (’24)
“It is my goal to encourage us to rest coming out of the pandemic, be reinvigorated in our communal and individual lives and finally be imaginative in the way we treat our own wellness and what God’s calling on our life is.”
EVP of Campus Sustainability
Elise Bounds (’24)
“I’d love to have more informational programs on sustainability with the lens of intersectionality — cause you really can’t talk about environmental justice without looking also at race, socioeconomic status and even gender.”
EVP of Community Diversity
Brianna Barba (’22)
“It is my hope that through the implementation of open and honest communication, strong advocacy and true solidarity, I and my committee would be able to push Wheaton toward being a more equitable and truly multicultural safe space for all students.”
EVP of Student Life and Engagement
Noah Rendon (’23)
“With the uncertainty of the future with COVID, we will have to be flexible but also retain a connection to the student body. Many of us have lost the connection due to COVID. I want to reestablish that connection and provide a way for people who’ve been isolated to re-join the community.”
EVP of Global Engagement
Joseph Park (’22)
“Thank you for your support and thank you for voting for me. I won’t be perfect. I’ll make mistakes, but I will always keep trying and I’ll try to work for the best and for what I think is the best for our student body.”
EVP of Technology and Campus Services
Mia Posey (’24)
“I seek to actively represent the student body by working to create a committee with diverse experiences, background and majors to represent the entire community. For all students to thrive, it’s important that every student is represented.”