After narrowly winning on May 2 with just over 51% of the vote, newly elected ASG President Katherine Conte and Vice President Juan Zuniga have been working to deliver their campaign promises to the student body.
This past Wednesday, Conte, a SESP junior, and Zuniga, a Weinberg junior, confirmed their 2020-21 executive board. The nine members, who had been chosen by a selection committee including both Conte and Zuniga, were sworn in over Zoom that night.
Before the confirmation, Conte and Zuniga decided to combine the public relations and technology committees into a more holistic Communications Committee and cut the Community Relations Committee in their reconsideration of what ASG’s relationship with the surrounding communities would look like.
“The whole point was to hopefully make the exec board and ASG a bit more efficient,” Zuniga said in response to their restructuring of committees.
The pair has also been in conversation with Northwestern administrators and student groups, with talks about COVID-19 policies and how they would be implemented during the upcoming fall quarter. Cante said they are currently working with administrators to get more answers for the student body.
“We're in the midst of planning a community dialogue for the last week of June or the second week of June,” Conte said. “So hopefully us students can get some answers in terms of what's shaping up for the fall–as we're all dying to know.”
During their campaign, Conte and Zuniga highlighted their COVID-19 policy advocating for “socially close, physically distant” community events in the upcoming quarters. They said that Northwestern staples, such as football games and Dillo Day, will most likely not proceed as normal, whether fall quarter is to be held on campus or conducted remotely.
“We’re thinking of how we can construct spaces where people can still build a community,” Zuniga said. “You can’t talk to your neighbor who you've never met in your Zoom class, so how can we recreate those spaces while staying socially distant?”
During their campaign, Conte and Zuniga laid out a plethora of policies they are planning to pursue in the upcoming year, including creating a TND on sustainability and a leadership stipend for executive members of student organizations. They also plan on implementing more STEM-related policies, which Conte said has been widely ignored by ASG over the years.
Another policy, which they have been pushing for over the past few weeks, includes giving students the ability to put their preferred names on their wildcards.
“A lot of work on our end is based on how we build student support around these issues, and then bringing those conversations that we're having with students to the attention of administrators in a way that they understand the gravity of the situation,” Conte said. “Then they are able to connect us to resources on campus to help coordinate this effort, whether it’s creating a mental health awareness training for professors or hiring identity-affirming therapists at CAPS.”
While their campaign culminated in victory, it did not come without challenges. Between sitting down with student organizations over Zoom, coordinating with their campaign through lack of internet access and conflicting schedules, and having to primarily rely on social media to connect with student voters, the new president and vice president had to make a few adaptations to campaigning remotely.
“I can't tell you how many Zoom calls like we've been on in the past three months,” Zuniga said. “It’s crazy. I legitimately think my internet is being throttled right now.”
Despite the challenges of their remote campaign, both Conte and Zuniga said they were happy with the student body’s participation in the election.
“Right now, it’s really hard to focus on the future, and that's what we are asking people to do for a week,” Conte said. “And whether you voted for us or or the other ticket, it means a lot to us that you all engaged with our platforms.”