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Monday, May 29, 2023

SGA announces winners of first-year and senior senator races

Kaveh Abu Khaleel ’26 (left) and Nikita Rodov ’26 (right) were elected to represent their class as First-Year Senators.
Kaveh Abu Khaleel ’26 (left) and Nikita Rodov ’26 (right) were elected to represent their class as First-Year Senators.

The Student Government Association (SGA) held elections for the First-Year Senator and Senior Senator positions on Oct. 11 and 12. The new First-Year Senators are Kaveh Abu Khaleel ’26 and Nikita Rodov ’26. Florian Knollman ’23 and Hieu Nguyen ’23 won the senior senator positions in an uncontested election.

Exactly 200 students, or roughly 31%, of the Class of 2026, responded to the voting form. Abu Khaleel won the race with 69% of the votes, with Rodov following at 54%.

“The impression I got is that people generally don’t know what SGA is freshman year, so I wanted to bring the concerns of the class to the SGA and be a voice for them,” Abu Khaleel said.

Abu Khaleel is a half-Palestinian and half Filipino-Chinese international student from Hong Kong, and said they hope their background will bring a different perspective to SGA. Abu Khaleel is committed to getting to know the first-year class and being a loud advocate for their concerns.

Rodov ran on a platform emphasizing community, opportunity and helping fellow first-year students navigate the resources of their new environment. In an interview with The Campus, Rodov expressed his passion for storytelling and being a force of amplification for others.

“Something important to me in high school was getting to know different groups of people, figuring out their takes on student life, issues, and goals,” Rodov said. “When I came to Middlebury I knew that was something I wanted to do, it would allow me to make tangible and proactive change.”

At the top of Rodov’s agenda is equity, inclusion and genuine care amongst peers. Rodov said he was petrified to learn from conversations with older students that hate crimes are described as “not too uncommon.” In the past year, two alleged hate-related crimes garnered student attention, including an alleged incident of hate motivated crime and the desecration of the Muslim Students Association’s prayer space during Ramadan.

“Knowing that my peers are supposed to be uncomfortable in a place they’re supposed to call home… It shows that even though we’re a liberal arts college it doesn’t mean we’re blanketed with that safety, and a lot of my peers come here with that expectation,” Rodov said.

Rodov also hopes to address the long lines outside of dining halls, and he is looking forward to talking with students to identify their concerns.

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The voting process for the Senior Senator position was canceled because the third candidate withdrew from the race after the candidates were announced, so Knollman and Nguyen automatically won the uncontested election. Both Knollman and Nguyen told The Campus that they decided to run when they realized the candidacy was vacant, and they attribute this to the SGA’s lack of visibility to the students.

“It is surprising that SGA does so much for the students, and the students don’t know about it,” Knollman said. “My goal is for SGA to communicate more with the students.”

Nguyen said the Senior Senator position is a way for him to give back to the Middlebury community, and he is inspired by his friend Miguel Sanchez-Tortoledo ’23 who was the first-year, sophomore and junior senator for the class of 2023. Sanchez-Tortoledo passed away last August.

“I wonder what it would be like if we had more students who cared about our class like Miguel did,” Nguyen said. “I love Middlebury and I love this community, this is the least I can do to help.”

As an international student from Vietnam, Nguyen is committed to increasing transportation access for students. Nguyen said students who do not have a car on campus may miss out on certain opportunities around Vermont.

“For me, I have a bucket list that I want to complete before I graduate, for example going to Lake Dunmore and Lake Silverlake [sic],” Nguyen said.“I want to create that option for students, and perhaps they have a bucket list too, and I want to help them complete that easily before they graduate.”

Knollman and Nguyen both emphasized listening to the senior student body for their needs.

“Do they want more social events? Do they want career services to figure out what to do after college?” Knollman said. “Some students need support with mental health, some students need access to transportation. Our goal is to figure out what the senior students’ needs are.”

Nguyen looks forward to meeting more students through this position and building a supportive community for the seniors’ last year.

“As an international student, I personally come here alone, and I don’t have any family members here,” Nguyen said. “And in a country that doesn’t speak my language, I feel like the need for being in a community is so high for me, and hopefully through this role I can get to know them, so I can support them and be supported.”