Content Warning: This article contains references to sexual assault.
The Emory Wheel hosted the 11th annual Wheel Debates for the Student Government Association (SGA), College Council and Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Council elections on Feb. 22 in the Mathematics and Science Center. An audience of more than 50 students listened as 10 candidates presented their campaign platforms and responded to questions before the voting period opened on Feb. 24.
Former College Council vice presidential candidate Muhammad Sami (25C), who was disqualified for failing to submit campaign expenditure receipts, was not present at the debates.
College Council presidential candidates
Beginning the debates, incoming College Council President Neha Murthy (24C) presented her platform, Neha CARES, an acronym for community, accessibility, responsibility, education and sustainability. This year, she served as College Council vice president and has previously served as College Council vice president of organization management.
Murthy said one of her most significant initiatives is making sure Emory University equitably distributes resources, as well further expanding the clothing closet previously established by College Council that provides primarily low-income students with professional attire for interviews and career fairs. She also discussed improving mental health at Emory by improving Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
Addressing the education aspect of her platform, Murthy emphasized the importance of resident advisors.
“One of my big initiatives in terms of education is making sure that everybody has the same resources provided to them,” Murthy said. “One thing by establishing this would be working with ResLife. RAs are a great resource to provide and support incoming freshmen.”
Daniel Nadel (25C), who ran against Murthy, shared his “Students First” platform. His campaign focused on three core issues: improving mental health, increasing food flexibility for low-income students and implementing more transportation options during breaks.
To improve mental health on campus, Nadel said he planned to do research, talk to the head of CAPS and talk to deans.
“It’s really saddening that CAPS doesn’t have enough staffers,” Nadel said.
In response to a question about making College Council more diverse, Nadel said he would commit to picking the best possible applicants but would not “commit to selecting someone just because they are diverse.”
Murthy said that the College Council application process should be a combination of looking at competence as well as diversity.
BBA Council vice presidential candidates
Former BBA Council vice presidential candidate Lily Short (24B) spoke to the importance of “reiterating Emory’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” establishing an undergraduate mentorship program and giving BBA students more opportunities.
Short currently serves as a BBA junior representative, which she said gave her experience in programming and overarching initiatives.
According to Short, education is critical when responding to questions about enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion on BBA Council. She suggested initiatives such as diversity recruitment, lunch and learns and workshops that educate the BBA Council on the importance of diversity.
Short also advocated for an “open forum” for BBA Council, citing the Wheel Debate forum as a good example of increased accountability.
Her opponent, Liam O’Sullivan (24B), ran on a platform devoted to “transparency, community and inclusivity.” He does not have past BBA Council experience.
To ensure that BBA Council adequately addresses student concerns, O’Sullivan proposed one-on-one coffee chats to evaluate the impact of BBA Council on students’ lives.
“Hearing feedback on whether or not that actually is making a difference that we say it is, is really important,” O’Sullivan said.
He added that he would prioritize listening to others’ ideas alongside introducing his own plans. O’Sullivan went on to secure the vice presidential seat.
“Working as a team together, not only expressing ideas that I have and bringing those perspectives to the table, but also listening, is a strength of mine,” O’Sullivan said.
BBA Council presidential candidates
Incoming BBA Council President Michael Chan (22Ox, 24B) ran on three pillars: fostering connection, building belonging and cultivating communication. Chan currently serves as a junior representative on BBA Council. In this position, he has helped host KEGS, served as an orientation leader and spearheaded “large-scale” panels like Dating Dos and Don’ts.
Chan expressed his commitment to uniting Goizueta Business School with Emory’s other undergraduate schools through various student-led clubs and advocacy organizations, especially Sexual Assault Peer Advocates.
“In the coming semester, my plan is to bring that organization into Goizueta classrooms, have seminars, have training and certifications for doing a seminar credit with food to incentivize students to participate and to get involved with the Emory community,” Chan said.
Chan also plans to create a new sophomore representative role on the BBA Council and introduce Career Management Center spotlights.
His opponent, Natalia Szalay (24B), centered her campaign around fostering community and connection. She believes in championing student feedback in executive decision-making, promoting philanthropy and sustainability initiatives and fostering inclusivity in the classroom.
“Having Council go to each school and also collecting feedback from our incoming students to see what they want to see and what parts of the college they want to bring to the Goizueta program, that’s where I would start,” Szalay said.
Previously, she has served as treasurer and special activities chair on the Student Programming Council.
Szalay said that because BBA Council presidents only serve one year terms, “there’s only so much you can do besides advocate.” As a result Szalay intended to pass more incremental changes that will foster inclusion instead of making “large-scale, big movements.” She also plans to incorporate student feedback and advocacy into executive decision-making.
SGA Vice presidential candidates
Abigail Dubinski (25B), Andrew Yang (23Ox) and Jayden Davis (25B), who was not present at the debate because he is studying abroad, ran for SGA vice president. Dubinski ultimately secured the position.
Dubinski ran alongside former SGA presidential candidate MaKenzie Jones (22Ox, 24C) on the platform RISE, standing for response, inclusivity, spirit and excellence. She emphasized the importance of getting student feedback on executive initiatives.
“If you want to see change, come and approach us, come talk to us, even after this debate,” Dubinski said. “We really are running to represent all of you.”
Yang, who ran alongside incoming SGA president Khegan Meyers (24B), emphasized that “Emory is diverse, but not inclusive.” His platform focused on empowering student leaders with their initiatives and forging partnerships across organizations. Yang currently serves as Oxford SGA president and has previously served as vice chair on Oxford’s budget committee and arts and academics committee.
When asked about helping low-income students at Emory, Yang referred the question to Meyers, who he said is better suited to answer as it is his area of focus. Meyers did not address the question at the time, but covered low-income student issues during his time on the panel.
The candidates were asked a question about avoiding situations like last year’s “scandal,” referring to the disqualification of Elisabet Ortiz (24C) and the ultimate majority vote of “no confidence” in the SGA presidential election.
“A lot of these scandals arise when there’s ambiguity and there’s not enough information, communication from the SGA side,” Yang said. “What we can work on is to ensure the process is as transparent as possible.”
Davis was not present but sent a statement to the Wheel to be read during the debate. He emphasized his experience managing student finances in his platform and wrote that he “recognizes the need to modernize” Student Governance Services to make it “more accessible and efficient for all students.”
Additionally, Davis currently serves as club sports vice president and the club gymnastics team president, which he wrote demonstrates his effective communication, collaboration and prioritization of student needs.
SGA presidential candidates
Meyers beat Jones for the SGA presidential seat on March 3. Former SGA presidential candidate Rizky Lubis (24C), who was also disqualified alongside Sami, did not attend the debates or submit a platform.
Jones ran alongside Dubinski on the RISE platform. They have served in SGA since their freshman year, spending two years as an Oxford senator and this year as a College Council third year legislator, also representing College Council at SGA meetings. Jones said the main goals of their platform are to make tangible changes to address student concerns, like working with administrators to “push initiatives that will overall enhance the experiences of the student body.”
In response to a question about the shortcomings of SGA, Jones expressed that it is difficult to access SGA’s governing documents.
“I spent 20 minutes searching for it two days ago and I’m in SGA,” Jones said. “That should not be an issue.”
Jones also mentioned they were worried that many students aren’t aware that SGA meetings are open to the public. They emphasized that although only the SGA Legislature can vote, any student can propose a bill.
If they had to select one issue to prioritize during their first week if elected, Jones said they would focus on sexual assault prevention and response.
“Reforming timelines and reforming access to resources is really, really important,” Jones said. “Also, addressing why the burden is on the survivor to relocate their classes, relocate where they live and not on the person who committed the offense to make that survivor more comfortable.”
Meyers ran alongside Yang, presenting a 45-page platform outlining various proposals such as Campus Emergency Contraceptive Vending Initiative. He is currently SGA’s ranking member and a BBA SGA representative, and has previously served as the chair of the College Council student life and traditions committee.
“You might think it is unrealistic, but we honestly believe that we can make sure that we can make change across campus in collaboration with student activists and really push for the initiative,” Meyers said.
If permitted to only focus on one issue during presidency, Meyers said he would work to initiate an emergency contraceptive program at Emory. He also emphasized that SGA should give funds to organizations that have big plans for great projects, pointing out that some organizations had leftover funds at the end of the last year.
Meyers added that he would prioritize sexual assault prevention by uplifting the work already being done by advocates on campus. He also said SGA should refrain from saying Title IX is broken.
“We have to be really careful about our language as SGA to make sure that survivors don’t feel like they can’t reach out to Emory, because there are support resources,” Meyers said.
Both Jones and Meyers agreed that Emory needs to be more welcoming for low-income students. They both discussed Students for Students, an organization that raises awareness and collects donations for students in need, who can send in aid requests.
Jones explained that they have wanted to turn to Emory for financial assistance in the past, but was “scared” because they felt like Emory would not be able to help them.
“My involvement in SGA is limited right now because I do work over 20 hours a week trying to afford my rent,” Jones said. “I love that there’s a resource in times where I have been making it by the dollar and having to sacrifice things, basic necessities like toothpaste, stretching it thin, to make sure I don’t get evicted from my apartment. So, it’s really, really important that we have a resource like this.”
Meyers, who has been involved with Students for Students since his freshman year, echoed this sentiment, stating that a lack of low-income opportunities made him “really disillusioned with SGA last year.”
“My story is the low-income story,” Meyers said. “It is the story of not accessing food resources on this campus and losing weight because of that, of not accessing a home, not having a home to go to, having to sleep on my friend’s couch for … three weeks, and only from the kindness of strangers have I been able to support that.”
If you have experienced sexual assault and are outside of Emory, call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or visit the online chat hotline here. The Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault can be found here. Grady Rape Crisis Center resources can be found here. Day League resources can be found here.