True to You wins Student Government election

Ashley Pittaluga, Vikesh Patel, Morgan Owens and True to You supporters celebrate their respective wins for vice president, president, and treasurer of the 2016-2017 student government executive office at the Lakeside Patio Wednesday evening. Hallee Meltzer // Photo Editor
Ashley Pittaluga, Vikesh Patel, Morgan Owens and True to You supporters celebrate their respective wins for vice president, president, and treasurer of the 2016-2017 student government executive office at the Lakeside Patio Wednesday evening. Hallee Meltzer // Photo Editor

Continuity was the popular choice for University of Miami students, as all three candidates from the platform True to You, generally thought to have the closest ties to Student Government, were elected into executive positions Wednesday afternoon.

As announced on the Lakeside Patio, Vikesh Patel, Ashley Pittaluga and Morgan Owens will be the next Student Government president, vice president and treasurer respectively, beating out the other two platforms, Empower U and One Team, One U.

The candidates needed at least 50 percent of the votes to win. Patel secured 59 percent of the 1,877 votes cast by students for president, Pittaluga received 60 percent of the 1,874 votes cast for vice president and Owens got 66 percent of the 1,863 votes cast for treasurer. Jason Goldenberg of One Team, One U came in second to Patel with 28 percent of the votes.

The announcement concluded a nine-day process of campaigning and debating between the three tickets.

“This is very overwhelming. It’s great to see all the support out here,” Pittaluga said. “This is why we did it, for all the people that are out here supporting us and behind us. It makes this worth it.”

True to You had a crowd of supporters cheering behind them when the announcement was made. Many students recently changed their Facebook cover photos to feature the ticket’s logo and a statement showing their support for the three candidates. Supporters also created a video explaining why the campus would thrive under Patel, Pittaluga and Owen’s leadership.

The three candidates have leadership experience in every aspect of campus life. Since their freshman year, Patel and Pittaluga have been heavily involved in Student Government and familiar with the intricacies of its operations. They have also worked together on the Homecoming Executive Board, with Pittaluga serving as the 2016 Homecoming chair. Patel has also  been involved in Greek life with Owens. Both were presidents of their respective fraternities, Alpha Sigma Phi and Delta Lambda Phi. In addition, Owens is the current treasurer of SpectrUM.

Though elected, True to You did not forget about the other two platforms that they edged out. Patel, who had tears of joy, praised them for their initiatives and passion for the school.

“We all had great ideas. We all came from different places. We all wanted to do things for the school and that was to make it better,” Patel said. “We all had the same goal and while we took different paths to get there, it shows that every Cane here cares about this school.”

Though disappointed, Jason Goldenberg, the presidential candidate for One Team, One U, had nothing but respect for the victors and hoped that his ticket’s desire for change was heard.

“They are a group of leaders who showed their own ideals and issues on what needs to be corrected and are run by fantastic people,” Goldenberg said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the people who supported us and I really hope that our message sunk in – that the student body needs to be more involved with Student Government.”

Despite three tickets in the race and two debates, one of which was televised by UMTV, there was a big drop in voter turnout from last year. While students could vote for one position and not another, they were only allowed one vote for each position, meaning the number of votes cast for each position was below 20 percent of the school’s undergraduate enrollment of more than 10,000 students and was down significantly from the school-record 2,934 votes cast last year.

Aqeel Khanani, the Elections Commission chair, thought more students would vote and was curious about why they did not.

“We had additional events this year, such as the live UMTV debate and the WVUM discussion,” Khanani said. “We anticipated a larger turnout because of those events. I’m honestly not sure why there was a drop in voter turnout. Last year’s tickets likely did a better job in getting their supporters out to vote.”

Austin Eng, the vice presidential candidate for Empower U, praised the campaign management of True to You and hopes they will go on to do great things.

“I sincerely hope they proactively tackle the larger issues such as access to health care, connectedness, cross campus communication, transparency, inclusiveness, racial disparities and others,” Eng said. “I am confident that they possess the passion, dedication and vision to do so.”

The current executive board of President Brianna Hathaway, Vice President Ishtpreet Singh and Treasurer Robert Renfro will retain their positions until April, when True to You assumes office. During that time, they will help the newly elected candidates learn their future roles and responsibilities.

Brandon Gross, the associate director of the Student Center Complex and the Student Government president in 2008, said that the campaigns for all three tickets went well.

“This is a great opportunity for student leaders to get their voices heard, get their initiatives out there and hopefully their promises can make all of student life better,” Gross said.

Also announced were the list of nine newly elected Student Government senators: Milind Khurana and Francesca Lerner will represent the College of Arts and Sciences; Brandon Bierly will represent the School of Business Administration; Alexis De la Rosa will represent the School of Communication; Brandon Armstrong will represent the College of Engineering; Sarah Betancourt, Liztiffany Couceir and Josh Konikoff will represent the commuter students, and Monica Bustinza will represent transfer students.