UPDATE 3/10: Hajar Hammado PZ ’18 won the presidential election early Friday morning.
On March 7 at the Gold Student Center, the Pitzer College Student Senate Presidential Debate featured presidential candidates Hajar Hammado PZ ’18 and Shivani Kavuluru PZ ’19, marking the first presidential election where both candidates are women of color. Hammado is the current vice president of Student Senate and Kavuluru is the current secretary.
During the opening statements, Hammado explained her campaign, which centers around the slogan of “Redefining Our Narrative” and emphasizes the Student Senate and Pitzer’s commitment to community engagement, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability. Hammado promises to hold the Senate accountable to its professed values.
In her statement, Kavuluru described a campaign centered around empowering marginalized students and fostering communication between the students and the Student Senate. She stressed her advocacy for greater collaboration between Student Senate and the student body with her implementation of office hours, student surveys, and the publication of the Student Senate meeting minutes during her term as Student Senate Secretary.
“I don’t want to make Student Senate about the student senators,” she said. “I want to make Student Senate about the student body.”
Kavuluru said that her main priorities are “to redefine the reality of student life, redefine the priorities on campus, and redefine the reputation of Student Senate.”
Hammado addressed the initiatives that she would like to focus on as President—such as enhancing the communication with trustees and alumni and increasing career support for media studies students. She also stressed her desire to establish “a culture of trust” between the Student Senate and the Pitzer administration so that students could have the freedom to “go about their lives and be treated as adults.”
Kavuluru agreed with Hammado’s objective of redefining the Pitzer College narrative. However, she also expressed concerns that this narrative could become a “personal narrative” if the Student Senate fails to reflect the views of the student body.
“I would ensure that the members of the Student Senate work with and meet with students in order to talk about what senate could do for them,” Kavuluru said.
In response to Kavuluru’s claim, Hammado highlighted the scarcity of “tangible” changes in Kavuluru’s proposal.
Hammado then spoke about the marginalization of low-income students at Pitzer. She referred to the recent reduction of testing funds and concerns with the student account processes, and said that she hopes to establish a temporary fund to support students with financial difficulties.
“Student Senate has not done nearly enough to talk more about socio-economic diversity,” Kavuluru said.
Kavuluru also mentioned that she was the “only candidate in the room” that had advocated to the Student Senate Executive Board for the possibility of a work-study program for students that are not as “economically privileged.”
When asked about their thoughts on Pitzer College’s sanctuary policies, both candidates promised their support for undocumented, marginalized students.
“That is something that I have seen that is lacking. I have not seen large student involvement. I am very happy to be able to represent and address those needs,” Hammado said.
In order to demonstrate her alignment with Pitzer College’s support for marginalized students, Kavuluru cited her involvement in Damage Control Action Network, an organization that allowed her to visit mosques, work with community leaders, and help organize 5C-wide rallies where students voiced their concerns and fought for a cause with their community members.
“The way I choose to support [marginalized students on campus] is not just about writing a piece of legislation and getting it signed,” Kavuluru said. “It’s about going to meaningful events. It’s about meeting with the students personally. It’s about creating funding for identity groups so that they have guaranteed funding. That is the kind of initiative that I support. This is not just talk.”
Furthermore, Kavuluru stated her commitment to personally communicating with Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver along with the fostering the student body’s communication with Oliver. In order to do so, she plans to organize forums and events where students can personally interact with Oliver.
Regarding the Student’s Senate’s 2017–18 funding priorities, Kavuluru said that she would ensure funding for clubs and organizations was specialized to club needs so that they can “properly operate under their funding sources.”
Hammado said that she plans to transform the current Reserve Fund into a Student Initiative Fund, where students can submit proposals for projects that they would like to see on campus.
Chair of the Elections Ad Hoc Committee Claire Wengrod PZ ’19 regulated the election and debate in order to ensure that the candidates adhere to rules and policies outlined by the Pitzer College Student Senate Constitution.
“I hope that whoever is elected as president is able to unify the Pitzer College Community and continue to improve the relationship [between] the Student Senate and the student body,” Wengrod wrote in an email to TSL.
Both poised to be the first female Student Senate President of color, Hammado and Kavuluru acknowledged the honor and responsibility that the title carries, and their dedication to the continued promotion of intersectional diversity.
“I am sick and tired of people not taking Student Senate seriously. I will actively listen to you. I will actively be there for you. That is my promise,” Kavuluru said in her closing statement.
“I am reaching out to the whole Pitzer community to ensure that Pitzer is a community where we value action — not just promise. I will continue to redefine our narrative and to be a beacon of hope as your student body president,” Hammado said in her closing statement.
Wengrod wrote in an email to TSL that her term as Elections Ad Hoc Committee Chair was particularly difficult due to complaints regarding the candidates’ possible violation of Campaign Guidelines and Regulations — which, if discovered to be true, would lead to disqualification. However, after investigating the candidates, the committee found that these allegations were false.
Students were emailed an electronic ballot on March 6, and cast votes until March 9.