Meet the candidates for NEIU’s Student Government Association elections

April 4, 2020

Letter from the editor: Due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, all quotes were submitted in writing and left unaltered. The NEIU Independent believes the care and effort invested by prospective delegates toward representing their own candidacy serves as a testament or indictment for or against their ability to lead. Any grammatical errors or inconsistencies within quotation marks should be attributed to the candidate rather than the NEIU Independent. 

Despite growing concern surrounding  the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, April still represents election time for students at Northeastern Illinois University.

Each year, the Student Government Association (SGA) holds its annual elections, where the NEIU student body elects a coalition of delegates to represent their interests for the upcoming school year. Ahead of the April 4 vote, the NEIU Independent breaks down the responsibilities of each position.

President: The president serves as chief executive of the Student Government Association. Though the president does not carry a vote in the senate, the president holds the authority to sponsor and debate proposed legislation. The president also meets regularly with NEIU leadership and operates as a representative within university administrative committees.

Vice President:  The vice president of the SGA also serves as head of the senate.  During senate meetings, the vice president must act as parliamentarian, creating agendas and casting the tie-breaking vote in the event of a senate tie.

Treasurer: The treasurer of the SGA also serves as chair of the Council of Clubs (CoC), appointing the vice chair of the Council of Clubs, managing the senate’s finances and assisting with the CoC budget.

Secretary: The secretary is the official record-keeper of the SGA and is responsible for maintaining the roster, enforcing attendance and creating documentation of meetings.

Illinois Board of Higher Education-Student Advisory Committee Representative:   The IBHE-SAC representative communicates the needs of the NEIU student body to the state government.  The IBHE-SAC representative operates as part of a committee consisting of Illinois colleges while directly advising lawmakers on the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Issues involving the IBHE-SAC representative include student loan interest rates, funding levels of the MAP Grant and textbook costs.

Student Trustee: The Board of Trustees (BoT) carries the authority and responsibility to operate, manage, control and maintain Northeastern Illinois University. These decisions are made at a quarterly BoT meeting, with nine trustees submitting votes to approve or reject actions responsible for steering NEIU’s educational and cultural directions. Candidates are granted an equal vote on board decisions.

Senator: Students elected to the SGA senate possess legislative authority within the student government. Senators hold the ability to write and vote on bylaws, which aim to advance the general welfare and interests of NEIU’s undergraduate student population.

President

Name: Angel J. Diaz 

Position seeking: President 

Class standing: Senior 

Fac-Staff

Past experience in leadership roles: 

Diaz previously served as president of the Chicago District Association of Student Councils. The self-described Brighton Park activist and current senator in the NEIU Student Government Association also earned appointment by the Chicago Board of Education to serve as an Honorary Student Board Member.

Diaz’ accomplishments include securing funding from the mayor’s office, which he dedicated toward restorative justice measures throughout Chicago.

Campaign platform:

Diaz reiterates the importance of community. Identifying the financial and emotional toll of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Diaz hopes to lead the NEIU community forward by thoroughly addressing student needs.

Over spring break, Diaz worked alongside local officials to provide support for senior citizens–a demographic most vulnerable to the torments of COVID-19–in an attempt to flatten surmountable obstacles and restore a sense of normalcy for elders. Diaz promises to invest the same energy toward the presidency, communicating his willingness to exhaust school resources–he cites the cooperation of school and city leadership as imperative–when advocating for NEIU students.

What are the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“NEIU offers so many great resources but many students don’t know about them. For example, a classmate couldn’t receive work-study funding because they didn’t file by a separate deadline. Costing students more in out-of-pocket costs. There are many more similar stories and I want students to know that we are here for them.”

How do you plan to address the issue(s)?

“Continue to work with students and administration to build on NEIU’s restorative justice work that leads the state. Create needed task forces and uphold the principle that decisions made in the best interests of students are when students are involved.” 

What would be your first action after taking office?

“Establish an independent task force of students from different backgrounds to identify how we can make information and reports more transparent to students. Establish a president report that will echo events on campus. And meet with every department my first month in office to echo our message of community.”


Name: Melanie Glover 

Position seeking: President

Class standing: Graduate Student

Past experience in leadership roles:

Glover currently holds several positions, including president of Student Government Association and Residence Life ambassador. She also holds memberships in Theta Chi Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., the NEIU Black Caucus and Black Heritage Committee.

Glover previously served as chief of staff, chief justice and senator for the Student Government Association; anti-basileus (vice president) for Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.; community service chair for the United Greek Council; student representative for the University Advisory Council; parliamentarian in Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.; anti-grammateus for Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. and chaplain for Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc..

Campaign Platform:

Glover endorses advocacy, transparency and dedication, stating her willingness to advocate on behalf of the NEIU student body. Glover’s campaign also encourages honesty between the presidency and NEIU community, exhibiting a willingness and drive that fosters consistency indiscriminate of the challenge faced.

“I am willing to be transparent and let students know the problem and offer solutions,” said Glover. “I am willing to keep going and be consistent no matter what.”

What do you believe to the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“The critical issues that NEIU is facing are technology accessible, students mental state, and students being aware on how to deal with life as we know it.”

How do you plan to address these issues?

“I am plan on becoming knowledgeable, offering solutions , and being willing to help by any means necessary.”

What would be your first action once in office?

“My first action would to sit with students and hear exactly what they need to be successful and graduate.”

Other candidates for president: Jordan Andalcio


Vice President

Name: Brandon Byrd

Position seeking: Vice President

Class standing: Senior

Fac-Staff

Current/past experience in leadership roles:

Byrd currently serves as a senator in the Student Government Association, a position he’s held since the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

Campaign Platform:

Byrd’s primary agenda is channeling school spirit at Northeastern Illinois University into enhanced student involvement. 

Byrd also identifies a communicative disconnect between the NEIU student body and faculty, a fissure he aims to mend as vice president.

 

What do you believe are the critical issues facing NEIU students?

Student voices are not being heard. There has been a lack of interconnectedness not only between faculty and students, but students and their peers. It is time for a paradigm shift. One of the major keys to academic success is contingent upon our diverse community working together cohesively to bring about change.”

How do you plan to address the issue(s):?”This change must start with us. I am committed to fostering a place for open dialogue within our community, encouraging student involvement, and advocating for student issues.”

What would be your first action in office?

“I will work to make sure NEIU is known as an inclusive environment dedicated to academic success.”


Name: Maleeha Chughtai

Position seeking: Vice President

Class standing: Junior

Past experiences in leadership roles:

As a social work major, Chughtai acquired leadership skills by facilitating youth workshops, participating in press conferences, co-teaching German classes and advocating for immigration and refugee rights.

Chughtai also helped advance humanitarian rights through her work with non-profits such as the Chicago-based Asian American Advancing Justice, GirlForward, ICIRR and Helping Hand for Relief and Development. While a leadership role within a university setting may be new to Chughtai, she  expresses excitement over using her past experiences to guide her as vice president.

Campaign Platform:

Chughtai runs on a platform emphasizing “power to the students.” Chughtai states that her platform prioritizes emboldening the NEIU student body to feel welcome and empowered while on campus. Once a transfer student herself, Chughtai promotes the importance of friendship, aiming to stimulate communication among students and provide a setting for the NEIU student body to socialize.

What do you believe to the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“From past experiences of talking to students from a variety of majors, I have seen that inclusion is a critical issue. Many students want to have a college experiences that enrich their life, help them grow and ready them for their workforce. However, some students do not feel represented in their reading materials, struggle with building relations in a classroom that has cliques, and want better relations with their professors.”

How do you plan to address these issues?

“I want to address these issues with three different processes that can be prioritized through a vote by the students . First, I will communicate with the departments that are focused on heavy reading materials, and discuss options that allow students to feel more represented. Second, I will try to set up cafe online hours at zoom that allow any student to sign up and connect with other students, to increase student interaction. Lastly, I will ask teachers, based on availability, to set up bi-monthly meetings that are solely dedicated to learn more about the professors ongoing research, fieldwork, and advice depending on student need.”

What would be your first action once in office?

“To stay true to my campaign platform, “Power to the Students”, I would send out a poll that allows students to vote about what issue they find most pressing and get started on it, once I receive the poll.”


Name: Wendy Cruz

Position seeking: Vice President

Class standing: Sophomore

Fac-Staff

Past experiences in leadership roles:

Cruz previously held multiple leadership roles within various NEIU organizations, leading to her chartering a new organization last semester. Cruz champions her experience planning events, having previously served in the SGA, where she held positions such as treasurer and vice president.

Campaign Platform:

Cruz strives to be a voice for NEIU students whose issues remain unheard and unaddressed. The sophomore candidate hopes to shine light on the importance of fostering a sense of camaraderie and community among those who wish to become more involved on campus, which she says enhances the student experience.

Cruz also contends that inclusivity–which she describes as “hand in hand” with diversity–is imperative toward equal representation.

What do you believe to the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“I’ve encountered variety of issues throughout my time at NEIU, but the biggest change I want to have happen at NEIU is bettering student resources across the campus as such extending library hours, building better relationships among faculty, staff and students. Working on improving the academic curriculum to be more diverse and inclusive across every academic department, just to name a few.”

How do you plan to address these issues?

“I have built my own relationships among many folks across campus, utilizing the resources for many other students to access. Working with different departments and administrators to help to improve the academic which I believe is a huge asset no more what you are studying, having a more inclusive curriculum to better prep students for the real world. As a student leader, having a place to study late on campus is very difficult because the library closes early, I will make sure the plan to extend the hours follows through.”

What would be your first action once in office?

“My first plan is to have a full representation of SGA, COC members and senators. Having a full SGA that is representative and full will allow better outcomes for all students to engage and enjoy. Bringing in more student leaders to learn about the university fundamentals will enhance better campus environment.”

Other candidates for vice president: Zeba Mohammad Arif


Treasurer

Name: Sara Galván Orozco

 Position seeking: Treasurer

Class standing: Senior

Fac-Staff

Past experience in leadership roles:

Galván currently assumes a multitude of roles, including Editor-in-Chief at Que Ondee Sola Magazine.

Galván also serves as a First-Year Experience Peer Mentor, co-chair of the Council of Clubs in the Student Government Association, president of ChiMexLA and NEIU Foundation Board Student Liason while holding memberships in Undocumented, Resilient, and Organized, the Council of the Status of Latinx Students and the Art Club. 


Campaign platform: 

Galván remains dedicated toward ensuring NEIU’s student activity fee is effectively distributed to promote community engagement and awareness. The ChiLaMex leader also promises to improve the process of awarding funding to organizations committed to guaranteeing that organizational proposals are considered and reviewed under a critical lens. 

Galván states that she plans on reviewing and adjusting the way Council of Clubs representatives engage with the student body, hoping that the CoC improves its internal follow-up procedures to ensure that the NEIU student body’s money is allocated responsibly. 

Galván states CoC representatives are the core of the Student Government Association, which she believes warrants recognition and adequate compensation.

What do you believe to be the critical issues facing NEIU students? 

“There are many areas of improvement, especially with retention and competent cultural mental health resources.  I believe in improving student leaders’ retention and resources in order to support the rest of the student body. “

What would be your first action once in office? 

“First, I will focus on community building within the council. It is important that the council has a level of respect and community in order to effectively execute our agenda and to be able to engage in discussions. I will encourage COC reps to have a strong voice in the council and to always be comfortable asking questions. With the help of my Co-Chair, I will make sure that COC representatives are well informed and trained to allocate proper funding. I will host a feedback session where I invite student organization leaders to come with comments, concerns, and questions.”


Secretary

Name: Marlene Flores

Position seeking: Secretary

Class standing: Freshman

Fac-Staff

Past experiences in leadership roles:

Flores served as captain in many of her athletic endeavors, including basketball and “track in field.”

Campaign platform:

Flores aims her focus at boosting students’ self-esteem and self-worth while encouraging the student body to utilize the university’s many resources to assist with tuition and alleviate the everyday struggles of student life.  According to Flores, her initiative begins with helping students identify which resources are available to them.

What do you believe to the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“I believe that the critical issues facing NEIU students are time management, debt, homesickness and social problems.” 

How do you plan to address these issues?

“Educate students what’s the everyday struggle of an undocumented student during Eagle Day or Welcome Week, create a handout listing the financial resources and where the financial aid office is to freshmen and transfer students to help them understand NEIU will help them along their journey to graduation, promote ways for students to get more involved with their campus clubs and organizations–they can go to a couple of meetings for a specific club or organization before becoming committed. It’s okay to change you mind. Have students attend their professors office at least once a week for at least 30 minutes and have a check in with their professors about the material of the course.”

What would be your first action once in office?

“My first action in office would be to expand financial aid resources among students and undocumented students.”

Other candidates running for secretary: Ayesha Bashir


IBHE-SAC Representative

Name: Natalia Borowska 

Position seeking: IBHE-SAC Representative

Class standing: Junior

Fac-Staff

Past experiences in leadership roles:

Borowska currently serves as a senator in the Student Government Association while also carrying experience as a First-Year Experience Peer Mentor. She additionally served on the advisory board for the NEIU University Honors Program.

Campaign platform:

Borowska believes in the “greatness “of Northeastern Illinois University, citing the university’s potential  to elevate its brand and secure the recognition she says NEIU deserves. The third-year student hopes to mobilize an effort to demand change from Springfield, an initiative Borowska contends will benefit the NEIU student body.

Borowska says she’s “encountered some of the best students, staff, faculty and programs in the state’s higher education system,” identifying strong leadership and diverse representation as a common denominator. According to Borowska, it’s time for the Illinois Board of Higher Education to recognize the needs of NEIU.

 

What do you believe are the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“A critical issue I have repeatedly heard from students during my time as senator is their feeling of disconnectedness in both NEIU itself, and in higher education establishments overall. The truth is that students’ voices are rarely considered or even heard when the important decisions that impact our education are made. By changing this culture and putting avid student leaders such as myself into these important positions, we can make sure that students interest are being advocated for.”

How do you plan to address these issues?

“As a member of the SGA Executive Board, I will make sure that our NEIU students’ voices are being heard by administration by working directly with the SGA President, Student Trustee, and NEIU President [Gloria Gibson] to make sure that all the steps we take moving forward are in the interest of the students, and are what the students truly want. As an IBHE-SAC Representative, I will solve the previously-mentioned issues by being an effective, straightforward and transparent advocate for the students. I will make sure that NEIU students are being considered and valued in the important conversations that happen in the IBHE committee meetings.”

What would be your first action once in office?

“One of the first actions that I would take as the IBHE-SAC Representative is create a system in which NEIU students have direct access to what is discussed in the IBHE-SAC meetings, where I would represent Northeastern Illinois University. This can entail, for example, as a section of the SGA newsletter or in NEIU’s very own Independent newspaper, where I discuss exactly what was gone over in the IBHE-SAC meetings. This way, students can be in the know and there can be full transparency and accountability in the system.”

Chief of Staff

Name: Isaac J Espinoza 

Position seeking: Chief of Staff

Class standing: Junior

Fac-Staff

Past experiences in leadership roles:

Espinoza joined Omega Delta and served in the Student Government Association for one year.

Campaign Platform:

A strong Mexican heritage drives Espinoza’s pursuit of justice. Espinoza hopes to use the same vigor he adopted while protesting the slaying of LaQuan McDonald to improve NEIU’s diversity and inclusion, which he cites as a commonality among many candidates.

Espinoza also aspires to develop a network between students, organizations and departments to help facilitate connections between students and the resources they need and want.

What do you believe to the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“Given our administration’s past, students were against Sean Spicer speaking at our campus and even with a petition and a protest he spoke. There was a flyer that was posted on NEIU’s Instagram account and it was upsetting to some. It seems faculty just act without taking [into] account our opinions. They didn’t even consult with us when they changed the cafeteria food-serving hours. At present, the school is ill-prepared. There isn’t an emergency plan in place for the situation the world has found itself in.

“As of March 31, a petition made and signed by students hasn’t been acknowledged. The petition being passed around regards switching courses to a pass/fail grading scale. Some students have trouble learning online and they need a hands-on approach to succeed. Our classmates are wondering if there is going to be tuition reimbursement for going from in-class lectures to online lectures. More questions are being asked, and we aren’t receiving answers.”

How do you plan to address these issues?

“I will put my talents and effort in standing strong with students. Whenever there is turmoil, a complaint,  or the call to action I will bring it to the association for discussion.”

What would be your first action once in office?

“I enjoy advocating for students, ensuring student funds are being used in a responsible manner, and encouraging students to reach for their dreams and accomplish their goals. I have made a CHOICE to serve YOU, the students, to the best of my ability. The first course of action is to ensure our voices are being heard. We are a ticket that each of you sees yourself in: young, scared, handsome and so sick of NEIU taking away mints that we will fight tooth and nail to bring them back.”


 

Name: Gregory Muenzer 

Position seeking: Chief of Staff

Class standing: Junior

Fac-Staff

Past experiences in leadership roles:

Muenzer held the position of chief justice of the Student Government Association since May of 2019, where he spent a considerable amount of time working with the current chief of staff and the Charter Oversight and Regulations Committee on a new version of the SGA Constitution. 

Muenzer also served as acting vice president of the Politics Club, where he worked with President Gibson to secure funds from the Council of Clubs to bring a group of students down to Springfield for the 2020 Model Illinois Government Competition.

As vice president of the Politics Club, Muenzer helped advise and prepare the NEIU moot court team, which sent four students to the quarterfinals 

Campaign Platform:

Muenzer is running for SGA chief of staff because he identifies organizational issues within Northeastern Illinois University, which he believes can be solved through a more representative, active student government.

According to Muenzer, the student government represents the most “direct voice” students have in bringing issues to the university’s administrators.

Muenzer wants to work with the executive board to help spread awareness of the importance and accessibility of the SGA. Muenzer hopes to transform the SGA into a visible, approachable organization for students to vocalize their problems and concerns.

“We will listen to them, advocate for them and work to make the university as a whole a better learning environment,” says Muenzer. 

What do you believe to the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“Northeastern [Illinois University] is a commuter school, and I believe many of our students can feel very disconnected from our campuses and from the invaluable resources they can provide.

Unfortunately, I think this disconnect has also led to many instances where administrative burdens on students has left students with holds or hurdles that prevent them from registering [for] classes or getting their grades. Some students have even gotten so frustrated with many of our procedures on campus that they’ve taken the step to transfer to other schools, and the fact that students would take such a step due to needlessly convoluted practices is unacceptable.

“Every office and every administrator on campus works with the goal of facilitating an education for our students, but students should not have to divert attention away from their classes simply because they missed a deadline to fill out a form that only takes moments to complete. Northeastern [Illinois University] is a learning institution, and there should really be nothing getting in the way of that whatsoever.”

How do you plan to address these issues?

“To solve these issues, I want to increase the Student Government Association’s presence on campus by going to each department individually to find out directly from the source what the needs of the students in each department are, and to try and spread awareness that students on every campus and in every department do have an organization on campus that will fight for them and represent their interests.

“Many students on campus may be unaware that they have access to the level of representation on campus that the SGA can provide them unless they’re members of a larger club or organization on campus, and I want to change that. This could be achieved by holding more frequent town halls on campus, encouraging students to visit SGA office hours, and by doing whatever else we can to increase the connection between student government and the larger student body.

“I also want to see the SGA work with the various offices on campus directly in helping to spread the word about what is required from students and to hopefully streamline some of the administrative hurdles many students go through attending NEIU.”

What would be your first action once in office?

“My first action once in office would be to increase work on finishing the new SGA constitution so as to hopefully better organize the SGA and create a more effective student government that can advocate for students in even more effective ways. It is critical that students within the SGA maintain enthusiasm and diligence in their work, and it’s critical that the organization itself is structured in a way that facilitates SGA senators and CoC representatives with the tools they need to effectively represent the NEIU student body as a whole.

“I’m hoping that in passing a new constitution, we can increase the level of participation and enthusiasm SGA members have in carrying out their duties, and increase the effectiveness of the SGA as a whole.”


Senate

Name: Mariah McKinney 

Position seeking: Senate

Class standing: Senior

Fac-Staff

Past experiences in leadership roles:

McKinney currently works as a resident assistant at The Nest, NEIU’s on-campus student dormitory.  The South Shore College Prep alumna is also a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. 

McKinney hopes to resume her work with the SGA, where she served as a senator last year.

Campaign Platform:

McKinney wants to deliver a voice to the NEIU student body, specifically citing those occupying The Nest, who McKinney believes are routinely ignored and silenced by NEIU leadership.  

What do you believe to be the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“One issues is student housing and how it ran.”

How do you plan to address these issues?

“I plan on helping and offering different solutions to how things can be ran differently for students and staff”

What would be your first action once in office?

“My first action would be to invite all The Nest students to the meeting to voice their concerns.”


Name: Vivek Pandey 

Position seeking: Senator

Class standing: Senior

Past experiences in leadership roles:

Pandey served as a First-Year Experience Peer Mentor and philosophy tutor.  The senior is also a self-anointed revolutionary leader.

Campaign Platform:

“Freedom.”

What do you believe to be the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“Liberation.”

How do you plan to address these issues?

“Action.”

What would be your first action once in office?

“Liberate the masses.”


Name: Saarah Junaid 

Position seeking: Senator

Class standing: Sophomore

Past experiences in leadership roles:

Junaid’s primary work came as a tutor, though she’s also organized events for her chapter of the National Honor Society as a high schooler. Junaid also invested ample time toward working with children while teaching and working as a camp leader.

Campaign Platform

Junaid aims to make a positive impact on the NEIU community, pledging to assist and represent all students. Junaid hopes to use her platform to become more involved in university life, which she says will provide her the opportunity to give back.

What do you believe to be the critical issues facing NEIU students?

“Not knowing what’s going on at the university, or not having the time to stay on campus as this is a commuter school, or not being able to participate in events. Also there are a lot of financial issues that face the students at the University.”

How do you plan to address these issues?

“Coming up with new legislation and information that can help students  at the university.”

Other candidates running for senate: Anjell Williams, Sean Gunderson


Full list of candidates and position:

President

Melanie Glover 

Jordan Andalcio

Angel Diaz 

Vice President

Brandon Byrd 

Maleeha Chughtai 

Wendy Cruz 

Zeba Mohammad Arif

Treasurer

Sara Galvan 

Secretary

Ayesha Bashir

Marlene Flores 

IBHE-SAC

Natalia Borowska 

Student Trustee

Gabriela Loredo 

Chief of Staff

Greg Muenzer 

Isaac Espinoza 

Director of Public Relations and Communications

Jason Franco

Kenny Kozyra 

Mara Galeno 

Senator

Anjell Williams

Mariah McKinney 

Saarah Junaid 

Vivek Pandey 

Sean Gunderson

Council of Clubs Representatives

Amarillis Rodriguez 

Destiny Davis 

Gabriel Can 

Tierra Tucker

 

 

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Meet the candidates for NEIU’s Student Government Association elections”

  1. Lenore Pettinger on April 4th, 2020 10:53 pm

    You highlight 2 candidates for the position of Chief of Staff but you don’t specify what that position does. I’ve never heard of a Chief of Staff position in Student Government. What does that person do?

  2. Donell on April 5th, 2020 10:36 am

    With COVID-19 flying around and campus closed, there’s no need for an election now. SGA is powerless anyway to fight the administration.

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