For the past couple of weeks, GroupMes have been filled with prospective student-leaders trying to collect signatures for their candidate applications. While this is different from the on-campus signature sheets pass arounds during class or the many “Hey! Are you in [insert school here]?” questions outside Blackburn, one thing is clear. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the start to the Howard spring election season is here once again.
As a part of the kickoff for campaign season, the HUSA Senate Elections Committee hosted ‘After the Vote: A Chat with Student Leaders.’ The panel offered many perspectives from elected student-government leaders which ranged from the HUSA Executive, various college Executive Councils, UGSA, and the HUSA Senate.
It was an opportunity for elected student officials to discuss their experiences in their positions and offer practical advice to students seeking office this Spring before the March 5th application deadline.
The panel wasn’t just a discussion on emails, meetings, and managing committees. Student leaders were asked questions that allowed them to reflect on the lessons their positions taught them and what they see as some of the best qualities in successful student leaders.
Many student leaders outlined that passion and commitment were two very important qualities prospective candidates should have.
“Be passionate. If you go into student leadership for the wrong reason, it’s going to show in your efforts. Make sure it’s something you’re passionate about,” said Briana Charles CNAHS Executive Council President.
“A lot of the student leaders I work with are extremely hardworking and passionate about what they are doing. Literally the definition of servant leadership,” said Samaria Campbel,l a COAS UGSA Representative.“The election is the easiest part. Doing the job and doing it well is the hardest part, especially during this pandemic. Potential candidates need to know their ‘why’ before stepping into these positions.”
Brianna Davis, SOB Executive Council Vice-President, put it simply. “I ran because I felt like a lot of students were left out of the SOB narrative. You have to remember there are people you’re fighting for who lose if you stop,” she said.
”Resilience is major because what you’re really signing up for is the blame,” Davis continued. ”You need to keep it pushing and remember who you’re fighting for.”
Naheim Banks, COAS Senator and HUSA Senate Vice-Chair, agreed with Davis’s sentiments.
“I think that we often glamorize being a student leader as simply having increased clout of Howard’s campus. But students running for leadership positions need to know that, sometimes, it’s not all fun. You will be blamed for a lot of things and people are going to be looking to you for answers,” said Banks. “Being a student leader means working with others to solve the many challenges facing the student body and to do so at the best of your ability.”
On a similar note, SOE Senator Courvaun Hill stressed the importance of learning and being teachable during this time.
“A student leader should have the ability to listen. Especially to the people they are serving. Being able to listen allows effective representation and growth,” he said. ”I would want current students running to know that no one is expecting you to know exactly what you are doing and it is okay to talk to your team and people that know more than you.”
HUSA Executive Vice-President Michael Franklin stressed the importance of persistence and commitment, especially in the face of the Howard Administration.
“Oftentimes, administration will tell you no or disagree with something you’re requesting. But it’s important to stand your ground, state your point and perspective, and work to convince members of Administration of your perspective and the impact said action would have on students.”
Student leaders also shared thoughts they had on this unprecedented Howard spring election season and what they hope to see.
“I campaigned virtually in the fall and it really is a lot of getting your name out there and making sure that not only your name is heard but your message is as well,” Hill emphasized.
Campbell honed in on the practical advice.“I believe candidates will have to be more diligent in reaching out to the student body. Creating events that not only people want to go to, but being sure that their marketing strategy goes beyond their friends or followers.”
Like with a lot of things we’ve had to do because of the pandemic, Franklin stressed that creativity and adaptability will be important in these races.
“You’re really going to have to go into different spaces to meet folks where they’re at! Whether it’s twitter, IG, FB, Clubhouse, YouTube, etc, people are going to really have to find out where Howard students are most active at and look for ways to get in front of their peers in order to make their case to serve.”
In closing, Franklin seemed hopeful and had a final message for the prospective candidates.
“I’m sure we will have several great candidates,” Franklin said. “I just hope that the candidates are willing to keep the same energy from campaigning once they’re elected.”