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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

B Striker ’25 wins SGA presidential election

Brandon Straker ’25, known as B Striker, has been elected as Middlebury’s next SGA president. Striker, along with vice presidents Talia Chang ’26 and Daniza Tazabekova ’26, beat opponent Josh Harkins ’25 and his vice-presidential candidates Freddi Mitchell ’25 and Ahmed Awadallah ’26 by a 32-vote margin in a three-day period from April 11 to April 13, the closest an SGA presidential election has been in at least seven years. 

In the election for SGA president, 46.7% of eligible students voted (1,372 of 2,938 undergraduate students). Striker received 657 votes while Harkins got 625, which is equivalent to 47.9% and 45.5% of the vote, respectively. Ninety students, or 6.6% of voters, chose neither candidate. 

Striker is a first-generation college student from Washington, D.C. He studied away at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) in the fall and is currently studying abroad in Spain.

The SGA set a voter turnout goal of 70.2%. While the actual turnout fell short of this target, the percentage of students who voted this year was higher than it was in last year’s SGA presidential election, in which approximately 44% of eligible students voted.

The candidates who ran in the Feb Senator election, Islam Abushareah ’26.5 and Natalie Frankel ’27.5, and Sophomore Senator election, Guler Aycicek ’27 and Anina Dentel-Pham ’27, ran uncontested.

Five candidates ran for Junior Senator, with Joshua Garson ’26 and Anna Miller ’26 winning the position for the fall semester and Bryan Harris ’26 and Claudia Lopez ’26 winning for the spring semester. Three candidates ran for the Senior Senator position, and current SGA vice presidents Fanta Diop ’25 and Tara Masri ’25 won the race.

Striker spoke positively of his campaign and election experience. 

“It felt like a really friendly competition because at the end of the day I had this mindset that, like, we’re on each other’s team,” Striker said. “We had the same goals, but it was just a matter of who the students wanted to vote for.”

He and his running mates emphasized four areas on which they would focus: community, access, health and transparency. After winning the race, Striker spoke with The Campus about the issues he plans to prioritize in his term as president.

Regarding his goal of strengthening Middlebury’s community, he described working with the Middlebury College Activities Board and fostering a good relationship between students and staff. 

“We just need to learn to appreciate our staff,” Striker said. “Then maybe have some, like, staff appreciation days.”

Other means of community-building Striker discussed throughout his campaign included organizing class assemblies and dinners, restarting the program he created called 4Meals which helps students meet new people over meals, sponsoring more facilitated conversations, planning more school-wide events and bridging the athlete non-athlete divide.

Striker sees building a strong community as the basis of all other improvements he hopes to make at Middlebury. 

 “The things that are for our access would just open up because we have a stronger community,” he said.

In regards to student health, Striker said he plans to make classrooms more accessible and work with Counseling Services to ensure students receive adequate support. He described this as “maximizing our efficiency and strengthening our infrastructure.”

He also intends to improve student health by diversifying food options in dining halls, particularly between 2 and 4:30 p.m., and pushing for healthier late-night food options at the Grille and Midd Xpress.

Striker highlighted his team’s goal of being transparent about all decisions made by SGA. 

“We want the student body to kind of know, like, we just want to have this really, really open line of communication,” Striker said.

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Striker anticipates that engaging students in the work SGA does could be a challenge, citing that just below 50% of students voted in this election. He hopes to get students more engaged with SGA by being open about what they are working on and by prioritizing community-building events. 

“Another challenge is just making everybody happy with the decisions that we make,” he added. 

Striker and his vice presidents plan to use surveys to ask the student body what changes they would like to see.

“We want to advocate for what the students want. But, like, some students want this, some students want that, and the goal is, like, to advocate for what the majority wants,” Striker said.  “Definitely sending out surveys to… actually get a number of, like, what the majority wants.”

Vice-president-elects Chang and Tazabekova spoke with The Campus about the campaign and their plans going into their new roles. They noted their appreciation for Striker’s engagement with what has been happening on campus while he has been away, and spoke with optimism about the upcoming year working together.

Chang is passionate about the changes the team plans to make regarding student health. 

“Something I’m really excited about is working with the disability resource center, the DRC and faculty to ensure that classrooms are more accessible to students,” Chang said. 

She hopes to make closed captioning required on videos shown in the classroom and create guidelines that give students more flexibility when they need to miss class because of extenuating circumstances.

Tazabekova emphasized community-building as a priority for her going into next year. “If you have a strong sense of community, there’s, like, a trickle down effect in terms of having a better sense of respect across campus, treating people with respect and kindness… having more accessibility, which translates to better health and better transparency within the administration,” she said.

The team noted that applications for SGA cabinet positions will go out this week, and anyone is welcome to apply.

In a video released on April 16 on his campaign Instagram page, Harkins reflected on his campaign experience. “Congrats to B Striker’s campaign, you guys ran a great campaign,” Harkins said in the video. “Thank you to Freddi and Ahmed for being incredible partners on this campaign and just having great ideas. Thank you to everyone who supported us.”

Ultimately, Striker said he and his vice presidents are in the business of serving the student body.

“We’re here for the students,” Striker said. “This is a win for the entire school, and I'm really excited for the future.”

Susanna Schatz

Susanna Schatz ‘24 (she/her) is the Senior News Editor. 

She previously served as Local Editor, Staff Writer, and Visuals Artist for The Campus. She is an English major and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies minor.   

Susanna is the social media and marketing intern for a small business started by Midd Alums, Treeline Terrains. In her free time you’ll find her taking in the Vermont outdoors hiking, swimming, skiing, reading in an Adirondack chair, or painting the scenery.