Culture / News / Student Life

All Candidates, No Students. A Hunter USG Event

 Pictured: Flyer informing students on the Undergraduate Student Government elections events.
Pictured: Flyer informing students on the Undergraduate Student Government elections events.


Tons of chairs were set up for the event that took place on the 3rd floor of the West Building at Hunter College on Wednesday. The Undergraduate Student Government expected a large turnout for the “Meet the Candidates Forum/Debate” which featured candidates who were running for the 2023-2024 school year election. Once the event started, they realized there was no turnout at all. Only candidates, zero student body. 

This debate took place a week before student government elections, which begins on Monday, April 24 at 12:01a.m. and ends on Thursday, April 27 at 11:59 p.m. It was a chance for them to speak to students, pitch themselves for a minute about what they plan to do and explain why they deserve votes.

It came to their surprise when they realized no students showed up in person. A few students, however, turned up in the live broadcast on Zoom. Tenia Wooten, Assistant Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development, introduced the candidates and said, “There was a bigger turnout last year. Hopefully, more students will come.”

Pictured: All empty seats and no turnout for students that were expected to come and watch their future USG members debate and gain voters.
Pictured: All empty seats and no turnout from students that were expected to come and watch their future USG members debate and gain voters.

There were 13 candidates present, all of whom were running for different positions like President, Vice President, Cultural Affairs/Student Activities Commissioner, External Affairs/Public Relations Commissioner and more. They were each given one minute to introduce themselves. 

Most candidates are not running against an opponent since there are not many students running in general, however, each candidate still needs to campaign themselves. 

Some candidates are re-running for USG positions like Asia Akperov who is currently running under “A Hunter United” for student body President. The former Cultural Affairs/Student Activities Commissioner, Akperov intends to bridge the gap between the student body and Hunter College administration. 

“Hunter is the crowned jewel of the CUNY system,” she said. This statement is something that Hunter College likes to take pride in. However, it is no secret there are many issues the college has that have been unresolved for years. 

Akperov voiced promoting diversity on campus, spearheading new initiatives to foster sustainability and suggested that if she were to win as President, she would like to propose sending out frequent Google forms to students to hear their voices and needs. “I can promise if elected, I will be true to the Hunter administration and advocate for the student every time,” she said. 

Throughout the event, the student turnout slowly began to increase, with all students going up to greet Akperov’s opponent. It was noticeable that the only cause for turnout was to support the only Independent candidate, Bassrou “Bashir” Juwara. 

Juwara is a second-semester transfer student from Guttman Community College where he was serving as student government president there. “I never had the intention of running for election here, but now I know the students need someone advocating their needs,” he said. “23,000 students at Hunter and who is here? Only the candidates.” 

Juwara’s campaign advocates creating a culture of student engagement that will celebrate clubs and diversity, planning events for students like attending Broadway shows and baseball games. He also wants to fight for free MetroCards for students, expand student resources and make students feel a sense of community on campus. “There is more to life than school,” he said. “People come here, go to class and leave. That’s not life.” He insists on initiating outdoor student events during the upcoming Fall semester welcome week, like a barbecue at Central Park.

Pictured: Crowd favorite, Bassrou “Bashir” Juwara, a candidate running for USG President giving his speech and advocating for what he wants to change on campus.
Pictured: Crowd favorite, Bassrou “Bashir” Juwara, a candidate running for USG President, giving his speech and advocating for what he wants to change on campus.

Other candidates shared their thoughts and goals. Colleen Denmon, running for Residence Life Commissioner, says she plans to advocate for affordable housing for students. Anastasia Villarreal, running for Student Welfare/Academic Affairs Commissioner, wants to help entrepreneur students who are looking to start small businesses and also push for more spread on The Purple PEERiod Project, a student-run initiative that provides women on campus with menstrual products and free distribution giveaways. Ariadna Pavlidis-Sanchez, running for Cultural Affairs/Student Activities Commissioner, said, “I fiercely advocate to change these [Hunter College] policies to make the experience at Hunter one that we all want and one that we need.”

After the candidates’ introductions, there was a Q&A where they were asked about infrastructure issues, the school’s partnerships with organizations that violate human rights, and campus diversity. Students in the Zoom chat chimed in with their questions in the chat box feature. 

“There’s a cockroach right here, take a look,” said Akperov. This highlights an ongoing problem at the college. There have been numerous reports of infrastructure issues on campus as well as rodent, cockroach and more recently bed bug infestations. Despite these topics being widely spoken about throughout the student body, the administration does not respond to these issues. 

One widely discussed topic was the fact that Eid, a twice-a-year holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide, is not considered a religious holiday on campus. Candidates also showed disapproval of the fact the school did not initiate any Iftar events this year. (Iftar is the meal eaten at the end of the fasting day during the month of Ramadan.) 

Juwara, a Muslim, says he promises his supporters to ask for Eid to be established as a CUNY-wide holiday. “Our CUNY Chancellor never attended a Muslim event held on campus,” he said, “It hurt me to see the Chancellor attend other religious events. Are we not a part of CUNY?” “When I reached out to ask why he never showed up to any events no one in his office responded.” Juwara thinks Muslim students should not have to choose between going to class and their religion. 

Juwara passionately, and adamantly expressed his disappointment in the representation of African students on campus as well. Not only does he promise Iftars events and more diversity inclusion, but he also wants to declare multicultural day at Hunter where students will dress culturally and engage with other cultural groups. 

More information about each candidate can be found on the USG candidate page. Voting begins on Monday, April 24th, and all undergraduate students are encouraged to cast their votes. Instructions on how to vote can be found here

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