Amid snapping cameras and tears of happiness from proud parents, Student Government [SG] president Michael Johnston was officially sworn in to his position Tuesday afternoon at the Rathskellar.
“You guys have huge shoes to fill,” warned Dr. Patricia Whitely, Vice President for Student Affairs, who ardently praised the accomplishments of last year’s administration under the leadership of former president Jose “Pepi” Diaz.
Johnston aims to boost extracurricular events, raise cultural awareness, and make Student Government more student-friendly.
Johnston says the new SG board already has a strong relationship with the administration, and that friction among past board members have crippled SG teams.
Newly elected Vice President Justin Levine and Treasurer Mahala Dar were on Johnston’s ticket.
The other five cabinet members who were inducted are: Stefanie Hernandez, Speaker of the Senate; Gina Yacone, Speaker pro Tempore; Scott Rubenstein and Rachel Turman, Chiefs of Staff; and Mary Clark, Executive Secretary.
Minutes before the new cabinet members rose their right hands in a pledge of commitment to the SG constitution, Diaz took over the podium to recap some of his achievements and express his gratitude as president for the final time.
“I’ve been proud and humble to be a part of UM,” said DIaz, who later added that Johnston would soon find out “the roller coaster of emotions that comes with the job.”
Part of the job, according to President Donna Shalala, is making sure the university’s president feels the heat.
“Student Government ought to be candid with the [university’s] President,” said Shalala. “I expect this student government to be tough and hold us to high expectations.”
Shalala also mentioned she felt sad to let go of some of the former cabinet members who will graduate in May.
“This was the best group of student government I’ve ever worked with,” marked the president, who also served as president of Hunter College from 1980 to 1987 and as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1987 to 1993.
Shalala’s last words of encouragement to new cabinet members: “If you survive the year, I will write you each a letter of recommendation.”
When Johnston got his turn to speak, he told the audience, “I’ve gotten used to my speech always being after Pepi’s,” with whom he had a close working relationship.
Johnston says he will ask the administration to expand shuttle rides to Coconut Grove and provide ice machines at residence halls and televisions at dining halls.
Towards the end of his speech, Johnston thanked his parents who were also present.
“Mom, I’m your production,” said Johnston.
“I know Michael will make a difference,” said his mother Vera Johnston. “Even as a child, he’s been a true leader,” she added, lamenting that his hectic agenda allowed her to spend little quality time with her son.
When all was said and done, and parents rose to mingle with their newly-branded offspring, Shalala joked lightly, “Sure sounds like we’re going to have an expensive year.”