The University of Maryland SGA approved one candidate for its election board and tabled two others after significant debate Wednesday night.
The debate about the candidates in question centered on diversity. All three students up for appointment are white.
Griffin Riddler, a senior economics and government and politics major, was approved. The other two candidates, Alaina Kahn and Ilana Bernstein, said they would not have been able to attend an immovable election meeting scheduled for Thursday, which lifted some pressure from the body to make a final decision at Wednesday’s meeting.
The appointments for Kahn, a senior psychology major, and Bernstein, a senior journalism and theatre major, were tabled until the next meeting. That way, if another, more diverse candidate can be found, the Student Government Association could reconsider the appointees, said Aaron Gladstone, the head commissioner of the elections board who brought the candidates before the body.
With SGA elections impending and the meeting on Thursday, the association was pressed to consider its timeline, but it tabled the two candidates nonetheless.
M Rao, an engineering representative, said she was not opposed to the candidates themselves or their credentials, just the group’s lack of diversity.
“As a student body, as an SGA group, we look around and we see a diverse population,” said Rao, a junior bioengineering major. “I think it’s important to note that in an election board that will be in charge of all those guidelines and will be in charge of making sure that our elections go smoothly, there is a diverse population that they will be overseeing, and therefore, we should try to expand our search and look for more diverse opportunities.”
[Read more: SGA recommends UMD fund diversity dialogue program]
Humza Yahya, an off-campus neighboring representative, argued in favor of the group’s appointment.
“Looking at their bios, I see an extreme diversity of major, I see an extreme diversity of clubs they’re a part of, I see an extreme diversity of even the places they come from around Maryland,” said Yahya, a junior accounting and information systems major. “Frankly, I feel as though the only reason there’s an argument right now is that unfortunately, all three individuals carry the same skin tone.”
Gladstone said he had reached out to student groups but was not able to get people to volunteer for positions on the elections board. He said as the deadline approached, he resorted to asking people he knew personally to consider getting involved.
“I’m going to actively work with as many people as I can to get as many more names as I can,” said Gladstone, a senior government and politics and history major. “I’m anticipating a lot of ‘no’s’ because I’ve already received a lot of ‘no’s.’ I think all the points raised were germane. … Unfortunately, the cookie did not crumble that way.”
The SGA also appointed a new arts and humanities representative, freshman French and government and politics major Allie Ng, without debate.
Paige Rodrigues, a senior government and politics major and the SGA’s behavioral and social sciences representative, sponsored a partnership with the behavioral and social sciences college Dean’s Student Advisory Council for their International Week, March 26 through March 30. The SGA approved the motion with a vote of 34-0, with the sole abstention of the speaker of the legislature.
The week has 17 scheduled events, and Kanta Mendon, the criminology and criminal justice representative for the advisory council, said they would help students learn about programs on campus with a global bent.
“With the university and the college being so big, I think there’s a lot of opportunities that students don’t know about,” said Mendon, a senior criminology and criminal justice and government and politics major. “We really want the students who come after us to be able to take advantage of everything that this university offers to the fullest.”
The sustainability committee plans to screen A Plastic Ocean, a documentary about oceanic pollution, at 6 p.m. on March 26. Nate Zumbach, the SGA’s chief of staff, said the committee’s contribution fit the spirit of the week.
“They chose a topic that affects the whole world — talking about the pollution in the oceans,” said Zumbach, a senior economics and finance major. “It’s not just how does it affect us here at home, how does it affect our whole planet?”