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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Josh Harkins ’25 for SGA President

We are excited to endorse Josh Harkins ’25 for Student Government Association (SGA) president for the 2024-25 academic year. Harkins, who plans to appoint Freddi Mitchell ’25 and Ahmed Awadallah ’26 as vice presidents, has clear and pragmatic goals for his term as SGA president.

This week, the Editorial Board met over Zoom with the two SGA presidential candidates and their respective teams: Harkins and his vice presidential appointees and B Striker ’25 and his vice presidential appointees, Talia Chang ’26 and Daniza Tazabekova ’26.

“I like to talk, and I like to complain a lot,” Harkins told The Campus as his reason for running. And his talking convinced us.

Harkins centered his campaign around what he described as the lack of community at Middlebury. He outlined three main areas to strengthen the community — advocacy, academics and transparency. Having worked for the Student Activities Office (SAO) and observed the extensive club bureaucracy, Harkins aims to reduce its unnecessary bureaucracy. Harkins and his running mates aim to improve mental health resources for BIPOC students, hold meetings with faculty to better understand their role in student mental health and organize class year dinners. They would like to see the college better integrated with the town of Middlebury, which might involve establishing an annual day of service by students for town residents.

Harkins and his running mates are involved in a diverse set of extracurricular activities that prepare them well to govern the student body effectively. Harkins is treasurer for the Otter Nonsense Improv Group and the quad ball team, a member of Reslife and a former crossword writer for The Campus, in addition to his work as a coordinator with the SAO.

The two opposing candidates outlined similar overarching goals for their terms as president. Harkins and his running mates, however, provided a greater degree of specificity and more concrete plans for achieving these goals.

Mental health is a central part of both candidates’ pitches, but we saw more realistic thinking by Harkins in creating tangible change on campus. He acknowledged that hiring more BIPOC mental health counselors is a long-term goal, but he will do what he can to advance that ongoing project by working with the Center for Health and Wellness as well as the administration.

While Striker mentioned aiming to achieve a 100% voter turnout rate for SGA elections — a lofty goal, considering SGA elections got an unusually high 44% turnout last year — we did not hear such unattainable goal-setting from Harkins. Instead, we were impressed by Harkins’ ability to articulate actionable plans for achieving his visions.

One notable feature of Striker’s policy platform was a whole-hearted embrace of A.I., which he said was inspired, in part, during his time studying in Monterey, Calif. We are skeptical of his unquestioning acceptance of A.I. given the pending Honor Code review next year, especially given his lack of specific details upon further questioning by the Board. This warm welcome to the emerging technology and the quality of his responses made us question what role generative A.I. may have played in his campaign.

Striker’s founding of the 4Wheels and 4Meals organizations, two programs that aim to provide transportation and company over meals for students, speaks to his entrepreneurship and compassion, but we appreciated Harkins’ and his running mates’ experience in collaborative student organizations — a skill we believe is critical for the SGA president. 

One issue among both candidates is the lack of SGA experience. Striker served a two month stint as SGA Sophomore Senator after the previous senator resigned. Harkins has never held office on the SGA.

What does it say about our student body that the only two candidates who qualified to run are so inexperienced? Additionally, the gender dynamic is hard to ignore here: Why are more experienced women relegated to second-tier candidacies, while male candidates receive the spotlight?

After speaking with both tickets, we noted both Harkins and Striker’s vice presidential candidates who attended our meeting had intense passion paired with time on SGA — things that both of the presidential candidates are missing. The four vice presidents frequently gave detailed policy answers to our questions and will arguably be the biggest assets to each presidential candidate if elected.

This felt especially noteworthy for Striker’s campaign: His vice presidents were spotted at Battell Beach during the eclipse, shaking hands, schmoozing voters and working hard for every vote. Striker often deferred to his vice presidents, most notably on a question about mental health — arguably the most important topic for students right now — during our meeting and the debate. 

Overall, Harkins’ detailed policies, strong extracurricular experiences and clear goals lend itself to the role he is seeking. We hope you will be similarly impressed and vote for him as our next SGA president.

Editor's note: a previous version of this editorial did not explicitly state that Striker served as SGA Sophomore Senator through the end of the 2022-23 school year following a special election on March 6, 2023.

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“I like to talk, and I like to complain a lot.”
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