IMG-8571Read the interviews below or click here for the PDF version: FINAL – KINGSMANSPRING2019ISSUE10

Candidate Profile: Carlos Calzadilla-Palacio

Q: What is your personal background? How does this influence you as a candidate?

A: I’m a political science major, Junior, I have a minor in Puerto Rican and Latino Studies. I am the President and Founder of Young Progressives of America the national non profit political organization that I started my freshman year when I was at LIU Brooklyn. I am an immigration activist, I am a labor organizer, a student activist. The way that I view my experiences in organizing is that the way we make change especially on a college campus, students need to organize in order to make the change you really need, and right now we are at a crisis here in Brooklyn College. Our buildings are collapsing, there’s health risks because of the bathrooms, because of the cleanliness issue in classrooms.

[…] I have organized student strikes, I have organized with the professors, I have organized against ICE and the federal government to stop deportations. Two of them actually successfully stopped them, we went all the way to the Supreme Court and we got our message out on national television. And this is all organizing, this is the way I believe that change happens and how reforms being in the organization that I started and me being involved in a lot of the protests and being the organizer of the protest that happened last semester led to tangible change. The organizing that happened led to real changes in campus policy from mandatory sexual assault training for faculty and staff to the offering of racial sensitivity for faculty and staff to the town halls happening every month – that was one of our demands. To the PRLS program being saved because it was rumored the admin was gonna merge it, merge all the ethnic studies and PRLS was understaffed but because of all the protesting we did against the racist professor and tied it into the systemic racism we actually saved it. We got a full timeline on all the programs saving it for generations to come, so I think when people look at my track record they will see that I’ve been there. When the going has gotten tough, I’ve been there organizing and been effective and a vocal voice for change.

I also have experience In student government, when I was at my previous college I was chair of the senate and actually passed the most comprehensive bill ever attached to SG which forced the administration to hire more janitors and they did and that’s what I think we need right now on this campus.

Q: What is your main goal if you are elected?

A: To bring a real voice to students on this campus. Things have been ignored for far too long and that’s gonna change. We have to assess the immediate systemic dangers that students are facing, and obstacles to learning. Like I said, basic things like bathrooms, like the food being affordable, like the Wi-Fi working.

So one part of our program is the immediate needs of students. The library should be open 24-7 for midterms and finals. It has been proven that it helps academic success and other colleges do this. So my main priority is addressing the immediate issues that hinder our education, and the other one is making Brooklyn College fun. Increasing school spirit by making sure that clubs have the proper budget. If they are active they should be allowed to have the funds that they need to provide for their members and making sure that the student government promotes these events so students are aware of everything that is going on on campus. We are using a program for student government if we get elected called #promoteyou and what this program is gonna be is that every single event or initiative that a club or organization has will be promoted.

Q: How do you plan on combating the issue of CUNY underfunding?

A: So this is where I have the most comprehensive planned approach. First of all it’s understanding, and informing the student body where the underfunding comes from. So there are certain decisions made at the college level that student government has the power to outvote the administration and make sure resources are allocated correctly. So that’s step one.

Step two is that we have CUNY Central who controls a lot of the funding as well, that needs to be pressured to give us emergency funding if we need it, or extra funding for certain programs. And then there’s another step which is the trustees and the governor, who appoints the trustees, and they keep raising our tuition and not funding our school properly. So we need someone in this position that understands that dynamic, that has actually protested and organized against the governor, which I have, and the Board of Trustees, which I have as well, and inform the student government about that and organize and mobilize the students so that we can be an effective campus at fighting back against the tuition increases and getting the funding we need. It goes all the way to Albany.

Q: Only 2% of the student body voted last semester, how do we change that?

A: In order for people to vote they need to know there’s an election and I think that for far too long the efforts have not been made to inform the student body that there’s elections. There is a lot of apathy, someone would say, why should I vote if my vote doesn’t make any change? But that’s gonna change if we get elected and that’s what we are trying to tell students, that your vote matters, your vote can actually radically change the direction of our campus and a big goal of ours is to increase the voter turnout. We are gonna increase it because we have a message that people can really get behind and believe in. We are gonna follow through, we are gonna make sure students believe again in student government.

Q: Talk about your VP. Why Nailah Pressley?

A: So Nailah Pressley is amazing. I actually interviewed several people but I chose Nailah because she shares the vision. She shares the vision that we need to have an activist student government. She’s an activist herself, she’s been an activist, she’s organized a lot on the past as a student, she is very outspoken, she’s the VP of the radio station, VP of her sorority, someone that shares my vision, is an active leader and an activist just like me that shares the same vision that we need to fight for the student.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume growing up?

A: Spider-Man. I love Spider-Man, he was my favorite superhero.

Candidate Profile: Hamza Khilji

Q: What is your personal background? How does this influence you as a candidate?

A: I’m a junior. My major is Business Administration with a concentration in Business for Health Professionals. As far as programs I’m involved in, I’m in Macaulay Honors College and the college BA/MD program. As far as clubs that I’m active with, I’m one of the most active members of the Brooklyn College Speech and Debate team. It’s pretty much taken up most of my time here, there’s usually a lot of practices we go to and a lot of trips as well. Other than that I’ve been working to kind of bring the BA/MD program has a club as well. We haven’t really been active on campus but starting last semester I tried to host a service event where we made homeless kits to donate, so because it’s about future physcians I’ve been trying to get us to do more service events on campus.

The speech and debate team is where I learned about a lot of political issues. Coming out of high school I was an introvert, didn’t really interact much with anyone, but speech and debate team has given me a public voice, and I think those are important as a candidate because you need to be able to voice your concerns as a leader properly, because if you can’t give your vision then you’re not going to get anywhere. Each time I give a speech I have to figure out is what I want to convey actually going to be conveyed into words.

I think these clubs show the intrinsic motivation I have to make change, not just pad my resume. So the greatest thing about the BA/MD program is I don’t have to pad my resume like traditional med school applicant because I already have a seat in downstate. So I only have to pursue my interests, or what I’m passionate about. So when I joined CLAS a year and a half ago it was not about my resume at all.

I was on the Student Affairs Committee. I joined student government because I wanted to be a little more involved in campus events. Some of the events I was involved with were… the Movie Night on the Quad. Back then we had a lot more people show up. Another big initiative was in SUBO, putting up signs to see where the rooms actually are. A lot of it was me holding others accountable because I did see a lot of things go unaddressed. There was a very bureaucratic structure that I tried to call out.

I know there’s some stuff about me leaving [CLAS] but I left at a time where pretty much anything that needed to be done was done, because after that nothing relevant to the campus itself was accomplished. So me leaving did not impact anything and again, what I’ve been hearing is, there’s veterans, but me and Zain were there before any of the current candidates running for student government were.

Q: What is your main goal if you are elected?

A: My main goal if I’m elected is to work towards an entire platform that we’re proposing. It’s not only about campus spirit, it’s also about the issues that students voice, the major issues we consistently complain about like bathrooms or the cafeteria or not having merchandise. We came up with a basic list of ten initiatives. I have these initiatives listed on our website, things like for example, the Women’s Center referendum, and merging Bulldog Connection into the BCNavigator app so you know when events are. So there’s ten concrete initiatives that I want to go after if elected.

But I think the overall goal is, to increase school spirit, yes, but engagement – people wanting to come to events, people wanting to associate with Brooklyn College. Another way I’ve been figuring out is getting Greek life more involved on campus and not serving as two separate entities.

And the last goal is, student government really doesn’t have a positive reputation on this campus, and I want to start to change that and change the dynamic between the government itself and the students.

Q: How do you plan on combating the issue of CUNY underfunding?

A: I think one of the biggest things with that is, the reason the entire campaign can’t just be “school spirit” is because there’s a lot of other surrounding issues that can be fixed. Rather than say it’s an underfunding issue, we can’t do anything about it, I think there are some methods to go about his, especially considering the new USG coming in. That means more money for us, and more power to leverage as just one government that’s willing to work with the administration.

I think we need to work with the administration. I’ve been wanting to work with VP Alan Gilbert and VP [Ron] Jackson. They actually have a lot of departments that report to them. An example of this underfunding would be bathrooms. People consistently complain about bathrooms, but we don’t have the money to fix them. But I think we can work with Alan Gilbert to at least make cleaner bathrooms and bathrooms that have utilities we can use like soap. There’s been a lot of times where there’s been no soap in the bathrooms, right? Yes, we may not have the best infrastructure, but I think we can start by bringing tangible benefits back within the first semester or month that I’m in office. I think kids will be a lot less likely to complain about these CUNY underfunding issues.

And despite me being elected, activism is still going to continue on campus. Insofar as we’re concerned, activism is the goal that gets this. But I think it’s better they exist as two separate entities. And of course as student government we will continue to use our power as USG. Now that we’re gonna be USG, we’re gonna have a lot of power as compared to CLAS as an individual entity. And we’re going to use this to voice our concerns with the administration.

Q: Only 2% of the student body voted last semester, how do we change that?

A: Well, number one, I don’t think that it was properly advertised. Again, this happens because the debates were held in SUBO, where I think a very specific niche of kids go there. The average person walking by Boylan Hall will not go to SUBO. Very specific student government candidates are always in SUBO, and the voting population is always the one that is most heavily involved in government as is. So, that’s one of the reasons I want to engage voter turnout by having the debate at a public place.

But moreso, people need to feel like they have an incentive to vote. A lot of the platforms, kids don’t feel like they affect them in any way. We’re actually going out into Boylan cafeteria and talking to students and telling them, “hey, these are the issues you guys talk about, and we have solutions directly to them.” And I’ve been speaking in all my classes, and telling them that only 400 of you voted last semester, and there needs to be more of you if you’re going to complain about these issues. You can’t complain if you didn’t vote.

Q: Talk about your VP. Why Zain Qureshi?

A: Zain and I, aside from our friendship, during our time in student government, he’s actually worked extensively in gov ops. Gov ops is the one that kind of makes all the ruling documents. He helped draft the election act. So at the top level, he knew where the bureaucratic power and the bureaucratic BS was. We’ve kind of agreed on the same term, that we kind of need to “drain the swamp.” I think the easiest step is to remove all political associations and student government would be a thousand times better. We don’t come in with any personal biases for any club or against anyone.

I love Zain because he has a lot more experience in government, and he knows how things are governed. Even in high school he managed a $60,000 budget. I think with him, we have a similar vision and we can carry it out.

Also, he has very distinct ideas on school spirit, so for example, the concert was his idea. So ideas I may not think of, he comes up with because he wants the college experience. I want a VP who’s gonna be willing to do stuff, and I think he has a lot of projects he wants to go after.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume growing up?

A: I liked the inflatable turkey costume where you look like you’re actually riding a turkey, but it’s actually an inflated balloon.

Candidate Profile: Alyssa Taylor

Q: What is your personal background? How does this influence you as a candidate?

A: So some things that I have been involved in in the past: I’ve done Jumpstart here on campus, I’ve been a member of Women of Color, I’m NAACP, CSU, Blaze Dance Team… the list is endless. BSU, I’m a part of that now. I always forget some, those are the ones I can remember now. So those are clubs.

I run on the cross country team, I was captain of the 2018 season. I’m also on the swim team, this was my second  year, and this is my first year on the softball team. I major in physical education, with a minor in health and nutrition sciences.

W drove me to run for student government is, as an athlete, not many people believe in our ability to do anything more than compete and go to school. They think that athletes are stupid, they don’t care about anything but their sport. And somebody at my old school would influence me to advocate on behalf of the athletes, and the other students, all of them. People think that, oh, you’re in athletics, you already have funding, oh you’re in athletics, you get all the gear. So they’re like, oh, you already get all these perks. They forget that athletes are regular students too. So that’s what drove me to join student government.

I’ve realized how, not only being an athlete but being  a black woman on campus, how much people think that we don’t really have much to say. Last year Women of Color stepped up because they were, not that we were being pushed out of BLMI, but BLMI was re-shifting their focus to focus on only black males. It’s because of situations like this where we don’t feel represented on campus where I want everybody to feel represented on campus. I want to fight for everybody to have a home here. That’s what my goal is for student government.

Q: What is your main goal if you are elected?

A: Empowerment and unity. My main goal is, there’s so many student leaders on this campus. There’s so many people who want to do more, and I feel like they’re halted by all the bureaucracy here and all of the rules and regulations. But to me nothing is ever a no. People say  that you can’t do something, it’s like well you can’t do that the way that you’re trying to do it, so you have to figure out another way to do it. Me running, I want to empower students to dig deeper into their goals and I want to help them figure out how to accomplish it. If you’re going to VP [Ron] Jackson for all your problems, but he’s not the one that solves your problems who’s the person that you’re supposed to go to? There’s so many different people, if your problems communications you have Jason Carey, the facilities you have Alan Gilbert, but not all students know about these people. You see Jackson, or, for much of the beginning of my term, just the people who are in Central Depository. You go to Central Depository for all your issues, but they don’t really  know all the answers. They’re right next to student government, they work with student activities. But that’s not the person you should be going to, so who should you be going to first? And how can we get your problems fixed quicker? That’s empowerment.

Unity is because I feel like this campus is very separate, in that a lot of the clubs hosting very similar events and not collaborate with each other. You would have a much bigger turnout if   CSU and ASU were doing a Caribbean event together. So figuring out how to get each of the clubs to empower each other and work together, and have bigger and better events. We sort of started that this year with making sure that clubs got the funding that they need. Little to no clubs that I’ve heard of have been rejected for funding, all of this year. That was something that really bothered me last year. Why are you asking someone about the kind of food that they want for this event? It’s a different story if you’re saying you have five people at your event and you’re trying to buy food for a hundred people. That’s more of a coaching or training. If you have a hundred people coming to an event and you want to buy a hundred egg rolls then buy a hundred egg rolls, you know? And that’s what I want students to be able to do. And feel empowered to do what they want.

Q: How do you plan on combating the issue of CUNY underfunding?

A: Student government is not about the individual. Student government is about working together. By having a student advocate fight for student rights is how I plan to work on that. I’m one person knowing I can’t do everything so having someone like David Schykerynec, the person that I’ve chosen for student advocate, who has been in the room with VP Jackson and will yell at VP Jackson if necessary. I know that he’s willing to read all the documents, he knows the documents, he’s read the entire Robert’s Rules book and he can recite it for you at any time. I have full faith that he knows what he’s doing and knows how to use the documents that people have put out against them.

And just for the record [David Schykerynec] wrote all of the USG documents, him and Ethan [Milich] together.

Q: Only 2% of the student body voted last semester, how do we change that?

A: Communication. What’s nice is that everybody has these teams that they’re putting together for the elections. Last year I was chair of outreach engagement in media. We went out and we actually went to go get people to vote, we hosted tablings at the student center. This year so many people on student government are running for positions themselves, it’s hard to have neutral tablings for the election.

One of the things I have to look into is getting the administration involved and be neutral. They have to be neutral. People like them who have no pull in elections can open up their offices for a computer space. The Women’s Center has computers, BLMI has computers. Having like election sites where you can go and vote there. I tried last year, but it was during elections. Now that we have time, trying something like election sites might be a way, because students already go to these places. It’s just about drawing them in and letting them know this is happening, you need to have your voice heard.

I hope this is a huge turnout. There’s so many great candidates, I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

Q: Talk about your VP. Why Ethan Milich?

A: So Ethan has been my deputy speaker for this past year. He was also a trainee who was voted into the assembly this past year. We actually joined the assembly around the same time. He and I are like salt and pepper. We are very different but we work really well together, ‘cause we help reign each other in. We help in ways that we each are different. He is very big on documents, and I am very big on organization. I’m very big on making sure that everybody is on task or making sure that the foundation of student government is running. He knows who, where, what, when, he knows our documents and creates our documents. He’s literally the best clerk I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know much about how to take minutes, but Ethan’s minutes compared to anybody else’s minutes I’ve seen have been on point. And that’s why I chose him to be my VP: because we work so well together. We get the job done with both of our skill sets.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume growing up?

A: Brooktoberfest was the day before Halloween this year, and I was Minnie Mouse so that everybody knew where to find me. That was my most thought-out costume, I guess. It was on theme with the whole Brooktoberfest. It’s just an easy way to be like, “when you’re here to check in, find the Minnie Mouse.”