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First-years elect Mina Sarmas ’24 and Emma Amselem Bensadon ’24 to UCS

Sarmas and Amselem Bensadoun elected as UCS first-year representatives over 10 other candidates

The class of 2024 elected Mina Sarmas ’24 and Emma Amselem Bensadon ’24 to serve on the Undergraduate Council of Students as first-year representatives, the Council announced in a Nov. 12 email to first-year students.

UCS introduced the first-year representative position last fall to connect first-years with student government and to lead initiatives specific to their class, The Herald previously reported.

Due to remote learning and restrictions on in-person gatherings, many of last year’s requirements for first-year representative candidacy were eliminated or modified: In addition to pushing back the election by a month, UCS eliminated the requirement for prospective candidates to obtain 200 signatures from members of their class in order to run and extended their terms to include the summer semester. The voting period was also extended this year after not all first years received the link to vote virtually, Sarmas said.

About 82 percent of the class of 2024 — 1,454 of 1,765 students — voted in the election, an increase from last year’s turnout of 65 percent of the class of 2023 for the inaugural first-year representative elections. This year, 12 candidates ran for the position, almost twice as many as last year, when five candidates competed for the two first-year representative positions. 

This semester’s first-year representative elections “were a much needed trial run in order to prep for the giant election cycle that will happen in the Spring, especially since the elections will once again most likely happen primarily online,” said Elections Chair Ophelia Duchesne-Malone ’22.

“We did have a few bumps along the road, but it was an opportunity to learn and improve,” she said, thanking the candidates for their patience as the Council adjusted to holding elections virtually.

Sarmas won 17.06 percent of the vote with 248 votes, and Amselem Bensadon earned 14.92 percent of the vote with 217 votes, the UCS Elections Board wrote in an email to The Herald. Logan Danker ’24, Ruhma Khawaja ’24 and Renny Jiang ’24 were close runners-up in the election, with 13.62 percent, 11.9 percent and 10.52 percent of the vote, respectively.

Sarmas and Anselem Bensadon outlined their goals in a Nov. 16 email to the class of 2024 following the election results announcement. Their main priorities include improving first-year students’ access to Counseling and Psychological Services, increasing communication between student government and first-years and providing welcome resources as first-year students arrive on campus at the start of the spring semester, they wrote.

Sarmas emphasized the importance of soliciting input from first-years in student government, especially given that they have not been on campus for the fall semester. “First years may shy away from sharing ideas when there isn't someone from the same year as them in leadership roles,” she wrote in an email to The Herald.

As first-years make their way to campus in the spring, Sarmas added that she also intends to work toward “spreading information to first-years who have felt left in the dark this past semester via weekly Zoom meetings and newsletters.”

On campaigning, Amselem Bensadon wrote in an email to The Herald that she found the election process challenging yet rewarding. “At my high school, campaigning was never taken too seriously,” she said. But “at Brown, I've found that people are highly motivated, have great ideas and find innovative ways to transmit them.”

She added that her “overall objective is to make sure we build a warm and welcoming community where everyone can thrive.”

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