My first impression of Student Government Association (SGA) presidential candidate Dwight Ma (17Ox, 19C) was that he was putting up too many posters. I saw Ma walking around the DUC-ling, stopping at individual tables to talk to students about his campaign. It seemed like he was trying too hard. I brushed aside the election as insignificant — last year, turnout for the SGA presidential election was just 23.9 percent.
But then Ma came to my table. He introduced himself, asked my friends and I where we were from and shook our hands. Ma managed to find some small connection with each of us, whether it was a time he was in Chicago or a place he loved from where I grew up in Queens, New York.
After about 10 minutes, we were convinced. We knew that we had never seen any student work harder on a campaign — and do it so naturally. Normally, I would find a stranger striking up conversations at random DUC-ling tables weird, but Ma made it work. He was easy to like, and he demonstrated the power of interpersonal communication; the face we saw on posters became something more — a human being that could connect and make students feel valued. We began to see Ma doing the same things at other tables, campaigning and having conversations with students outside the DUC-ling, Cox Hall and elsewhere on campus.
When I say “we,” I refer to my friends on the extended family of Emory’s track and cross country teams who also support Ma. We love him because of his unwavering willingness to communicate and advocate for change. Ma’s campaign has become a common topic of conversation on campus over the last few days and has brought Emory students together in a rare way; I talked to peers I haven’t spoken to in years, and made conversation with others I have never talked to before about Ma’s incredible power of communication and ability to make every person feel like they matter.
Ma’s humor and eccentricity go a long way, but it’s his tireless energy and persistence that gives him far more potential than your run-of-the-mill bureaucrat. The electoral misconduct allegations against Ma were cleared after he provided evidence, including receipts and a video testimony from the Maggie’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill co-owner. Ma has no quit in him. Earlier, when I reached out to Ma regarding my team’s support, and asked if he would be willing to meet us during our track meet on Saturday afternoon, he responded “yes” in an instant. He asked us about the events happening on the track and expressed genuine interest in our teammates running a 4×100 meter relay.
And in that way, Ma can unite Emory. His desire to listen to underrepresented groups, demonstrated by his experience as vice president of the international student experience, and his sheer approachability demonstrate that he is a person who can and should lead our student government. A man willing to not care about restrictive social convention, engage everyone and make students actually care about an Emory SGA election is someone special.
In the first election for SGA president, which closed on March 30, 2,367 students voted, 551 more than last year’s election. That is just over a 23 percent increase from last year. Although many credit this increase to the scandal surrounding allegations and sensationalist reporting, Ma’s style and freshness in engaging people is likely a large contributor. Why should we care about Ma’s “bureaucratic capabilities” when he clearly has the drive, motivation and care for his fellow peers that prove he can do the job?
The main and greatest flaw of Emory’s community is its division. Emory is a school of cliques, and as my two-and-a-half years at Emory have shown me, people tend to hang around their own circles and exclusive communities — whether that’s a fraternity or sorority, a sports team, a religious group or another organization — usually without intersection.
Ma is an unorthodox candidate, but he is the only one who can change this culture at Emory and bring all these groups together. His ability to unite people and be inclusive is why he has my vote for SGA president.
Ryan Fan is a College junior from Stony Brook, N.Y.