Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

As president of the University of Maryland College Democrats, I seek to promote certain values in the College Park community. One is a shared appreciation for civic engagement and an understanding that making a difference in the community and protecting our shared public values means we can’t take the right to vote for granted.

With the Student Government Association election period beginning Monday and ending Wednesday, I encourage you all to transform any discontent you have — whether it be with the University of Maryland leadership, the actions of SGA or anything else that has troubled you as a student — into action. Take advantage of the opportunity to vote for who you feel will best represent the interests and values you feel are most important for a strong university community.

Like many of you, I find myself troubled by the role the SGA plays on campus. I often feel my voice doesn’t really matter, and my concerns fall upon deaf ears. As a leader of a student group, I have grown weary of the SGA and frustrated with the ambiguous processes to apply for funding, bring speakers to campus or just remain an SGA-recognized organization.

I began thinking about the campuswide issues that were most important to me and how I would actively participate in this year’s SGA elections. I sought a ticket dedicated to increasing transparency in all student government affairs — from more open communication with student groups and the student body in general, to a group of leaders that listens to student voices and incorporates our ideas and concerns into its agenda.

I wanted to feel assured that my undocumented peers will be protected by campus leadership and feel safe and welcome as members of our community. I wanted a ticket that will proudly stand up for and advocate on behalf of all students under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at this university, a ticket that will make sure all students have the resources necessary to academically and professionally succeed.

I also felt serious changes needed to be made to the culture surrounding sexual assault on campus and make our community a safe environment in which the university administration believes and listens to survivors of sexual assault. I needed an increase in Title IX resources and an SGA leadership that will stand up to federal regulations hindering justice in cases of sexual misconduct.

I sought a ticket where we could all be assured our voices would be heard. I wanted to support SGA candidates who will, in turn, support all students, regardless of political ideology, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, country of origin or any other that makes our community so beautifully diverse. To make Maryland a better home for every member of our community, we need leaders who will respect diverse opinions and embrace differences as an opportunity to learn from and grow with one another.

These are the reasons the College Democrats’ Executive Board and I have decided to cast our votes for Ireland Lesley on the Empower Maryland ticket.

Having worked with Lesley during her time as president of Maryland Discourse, an organization that provides a space for students to find common ground on important issues, I am confident that she is the fearless leader our community needs. Ireland has experience engaging with opposing opinions and acting in a manner that is most beneficial to the community at large, operating independently from self-interest or personal beliefs. Lesley will work to improve this university on behalf of every single student. She will engage in dialogue with all student groups. And she, along with the rest of the incredible party members on her ticket, will undoubtedly Empower Maryland.

Sydney Poretsky, the president of the University of Maryland College Democrats, is a senior communication and Spanish major. She can be reached at