Grant Dever and Melissa Holloway have been elected 2015-2016 Students’ Association (SA) president and vice president, according to unofficial results posted on the SA elections website late Wednesday evening. Dever and Holloway won by a margin of 546 votes over opponents Ethan Bidna and Erinmarie Byrnes. Out of the 1,318 votes cast in the presidential and vice presidential race, Dever and Holloway received a majority 932 votes while Bidna and Byrnes received 386.
Two weeks ago, Dever and Holloway did not expect that they would be elected SA president and vice president. Neither Dever, the 2016 Class Council President and Senate Projects & Services Committee Co-Chair, nor Holloway, a junior class senator, had any plans to run for higher office until one week before the campaign season began.
When they heard the results, Dever and Holloway reacted with astonishment, then joy. “It’s really crazy,” Dever said. “I in no way thought that we were 100 percent going to win.” Holloway felt similarly, saying, “I thought it was going to be pretty close.” At press time, both were still absorbing the outcome of the election. “I think it’s going to take us some time to process it,” Dever said. Bidna and Byrnes declined to comment on the unofficial results.
Dever and Holloway expressed interest in working with Bidna and Byrnes in the future. “We think that they’re both very competent,” Dever said. “We’d definitely work with either of them. I think that they do a great job in SA.”
The results come in the wake of a whirlwind campaign. Dever attributed much of their success to campaigning on social media platforms. “I think that social media is really key,” he said.
Bidna had called Dever and Holloway’s campaign strategy into question at the outset of the campaign, bringing allegations before the SA Senate Elections Committee that Dever and Holloway had begun campaigning before the 12:01 a.m. campaign start time on Monday, March 30. Bidna submitted a complaint to the committee at 12:42 a.m., alleging that endorsements on the Dever/Holloway website had been made prior to the legal start time.
The committee dismissed Bidna’s complaint as “shaky,” according to Elections Committee Chair Paul Jaquish, on the grounds that campaigning constitutes public, not private, endorsements. SA precedent dictates that presidential-level races be given some leeway on matters of start time because of the difficulty of a one-week campaign.
“We felt that Ethan had asked us to draw the line exactly between what he had done and what his opponent had done, and that was just too specific for us to feel okay about it,” Jaquish said. Bidna declined to comment on the situation.
A debate between the two tickets was held in Hoyt Auditorium on Thursday, April 2. The candidates answered a set of questions posed by senior and outgoing SA President Antoinette Esce and later fielded impromptu questions from members of the audience. Recurring themes throughout the debate were promotion of an inclusive and friendly campus environment and ensuring that SA’s agenda is fueled by student input.
Following a coin toss, Dever and Holloway spoke first, discussing their leadership backgrounds and platform. “We want to promote a more inclusive and empathetic environment on the University of Rochester campus,” Dever said. “We’ve been through a lot this year, and we’ve really seen some parts of the University of Rochester that we didn’t really expect to see and we didn’t want to believe existed on our campus. But, through mediums such as as Yik Yak […] we’ve seen that there are dark parts of our campus that we really don’t appreciate.” Throughout the debate, both tickets returned to themes of cooperation and progress in the context of a campus facing challenging recent events.
Bidna and Byrnes began with a request for the audience: “If anyone in this room has ever had a problem on campus at the University of Rochester, please raise your hand.” The audience gave an overwhelmingly affirmative response. A follow-up question showed that most of the audience had not contacted their senators regarding their issues. Throughout the debate, Bidna and Byrnes stressed their devotion to the promotion of student initiatives. Dever’s and Holloway’s future plans as president- and vice president-elect are consistent with what they described at the debate. When asked about a first step, Dever said, “I want to do a lot of research this summer… maybe reaching out to some SA governments [at other schools]. I think our attitude and our energy will help.” Dever also expressed his interest in communicating with campus organizations and fostering both empathy and collaboration. “We have so much more in common than we do things that separate us,” he added.
“A lot of what we’re going to need to do is meet with Antoinette [Esce] and David [Stark],” Dever said. “I can trust in her when she said that whoever wins is going to be prepared for the job.”
When asked where they hoped to see the SA in a year, Holloway said, “I personally would want the environment in SA government to be different than it is now. I want everyone to feel like they’re making a difference and feel like they have ways to do that.” Their plans include improvement of campus Wi-Fi, gender-neutral bathrooms and PR initiatives to explain and discuss important issues and easier access to SA Government. “With students just being happy with their experience here,” Holloway said, “I feel like the new structure is going to help that a lot.”
In a statement made after the unofficial results were released, Esce said, “I’m proud of both teams of candidates. I’ve worked closely with both of them and have watched them grow this past year into great leaders. The student body chose Grant and Melissa to lead them in this capacity next year, but I have no doubt that Ethan and Erinmarie will continue to do amazing things for our campus as well.”
Trombly is a member of the class of 2018.