A Conversation With: Ethan Chen and Krithik Varghese (ASG Presidential Candidates)
December 12, 2019
As part of our reporting on the ASG elections, staff writers Will Peng and Geoffrey Zhang interviewed the ASG presidential candidates on their campaigns and policies they would like to implement. Below are two interviews that these reporters conducted.
A Conversation With: Ethan Chen
Will: Hi Ethan! I’m Will, a staff writer at the Voice, and I wanted to talk to you today about your campaign? How is running for president this year different than running in the past?
Ethan: So I ran for VP last year, and I think a minor change is that there’s less information for voting this year. But I think the Q&A that took place today and the Facebook livestream tomorrow at 8 pm on Facebook, I think those are enough sufficient resources for the student body to know what the goals are of each candidate and the policies of each candidate. This year, campaigning has only been one week versus two weeks.
W: Why is it shortened down to one week this year?
E: I think ASG wanted to condense it because there was no need for two weeks. We can fit all the events in one week.
W: Define your campaign in one word.
E: Engagement. That’s my main goal.
W: Can you elaborate on that?
E: That’s my first goal, to engage people creatively through things that they are passionate about, so really reaching out to different groups of students and seeing what kinds of events and activities and things that interest them so ASG can continue to improve and serve their needs.
W: What experience do you have that qualifies you to be the president?
E: I’ve been in leadership in fifth grade, as you probably may know. I’ve been the ASB president for Warm Springs and Horner, and class officer freshman and sophomore year. It’s not just the positions that help build me as a very strong leader, it’s also the experiences and memories I have serving in these positions. It teaches me what students really want, and how I can keep improving as a leader, both enhancing accountability inside of ASG and outside of ASG. I also have a solid track record of implementing change; freshmen to sophomore year summer, I created a clubs brochure, which was to help all students, especially freshmen, with their club searching journey, to make it more smooth, and more suited for them. As I mentioned in my speech, we also fixed all the bathrooms that were broken.
W: So you were class officer freshmen and sophomore year, this year you’re the development director. Is that a step-down or…
E: I wouldn’t really consider it a step down. I think serving as two years as a class officer, I’ve gained a lot of experiences from that position, but now I wanna narrow myself, so I explored different opportunities as a development director and part of the ASG executive council. I’ve been in the executive council before, so it’s not like I lost class officer and wanted to go to exec, my passion was actually for this position before class officer.
W: So if you became president, what’s one change that you would make?
E: I think that part of my first goal was just to engage the student. I think a lot of the time we might have a low event turnout, and I don’t think it’s… I don’t want to keep this too ASG limited but I think the reason for low event turnout is that our events either don’t engage students or it’s not the right timing, so I think through surveys, public forums, and just engaging the students, we can understand the true needs and then better serve them.
W: So you mentioned in your 1-minute read that Irvington spirit is unique. Why do you think so?
E: I think it’s because we have lots of diversity on our campus, and I think with this diversity, it’s like, a lot of students have different interests and connections are usually formed because we share a common interest, and I think we’re always there to lend a helping hand to each other, whether it’s like, you may have friends that go to other friends’ senior nights, make posters for them, cheer them on, or just studying with each other and making sure we all feel safe and welcome at the school. So that’s what I love about the Irvington spirit.
W: You also mentioned the QR code, so how’s that going to work?
E: On my flyers, we actually had quite a lot scans; I made it through a QR code generator, and it’s very easy, you just make your camera hover over the code, and then there will be a pop-up and you can just click the link to access the website, and then there you can find all the information about my campaign experiences and my goals. And there’s another QR code which I worked with my committee to put up in bathrooms, and it’s something you can also scan and report issues real-time. Because things will break in the bathroom, you’ll run out of supplies, and it’s easier to address a concern that way.
W: Are both of those going to be year-long, or…
E: That [bathroom QR code] has nothing to do with my campaign, it’s just part of a general bathroom renovation we’re working on. And the main goal for us is to focus on what matters to the student body. Bathrooms are a necessity for all humans, so improving them would improve the campus experience on campus.
W: Anything else you would like to add about your campaign?
E: It might have been a shortened election week, but I’ve been excited throughout, and I’m always open to answering any questions students have about my campaign or just any ideas people have improving our campus. It doesn’t have to wait till next year, we can implement change now.
A Conversation With: Krithik Varghese
Geoffrey: Hi Krithik! My name is Geoffrey, and I’m a staff writer at the Voice. Today I’ll be interviewing you about your ASG presidential campaign, as well as a bit on ASG itself. Let’s start with your campaign. How has running for president been different than running for other positions you’ve campaigned for?
Krithik: So I ran for class officer last year, and I think the biggest difference is that with running for class officer, you’re reaching to a base you know more about, because it’s people in your class, so it’s people you’ve probably met or talked with once or twice. But with ASG president you’re reaching to a much wider audience. You have to work and network people with people you probably haven’t met before. All the goals and everything you have are much more wide-scale and open-ended because you want more people to listen and understand your policies instead of a narrow focus on class policies when I was a class officer.
G: How do you outreach to some of the other classes with people you don’t have an audience with yet?
K: A lot of it is just talking with people you didn’t know. At this point, you usually know people from each class, so it’s just getting to know who they are and what their positions are on school issues and what matters to them to get an idea of what their main concerns are. Using that to approach a wider range than just a class and just going out there and asking people and interacting with people you don’t necessarily talk to about how they feel about the school and what they want to change about the school. For freshman class especially, since you have no understanding of them, you have to go out and talk to people you’ve never talked to before to have the interaction to start something to lead to future change.
G: If you could summarize your campaign in one word, how would you describe it?
K: My entire campaign can be summarized with transparency, unity, and connections, but I guess unity encompasses all three. That’s pretty much what I want to focus on in the next year.
G: What kind of leadership experience do you have?
K: I’ve been a freshmen class officer, junior class officer, and sophomore year I was LInk director. I’ve had every facet of ASG experience, not just class officer experience, but also just being a normal ASG member. You get a wider range of ideas flowing when you do Link and things like that. I’ve also been a club officer for the past two years, I’ve worked with competition based and service based clubs. Working with those things, you get a much better idea of connections and the process of things. I have a good understanding of the club system, and I think that will be beneficial when I have to understand the ASG as a whole (since clubs are such a big part of it). In general, in those three years, I’ve experienced ups and downs through being part of the ASG class; I’ve seen it morph in many ways and I’ve been able to understand what things could be more efficient or can be improved.
G: What is a defining moment in your experience that shapes who you are now and your campaign?
K: I would say freshmen orientation when I was a Link Director. Homecoming is really big, but for Homecoming, you have a team of Class Council members helping you. But for Link Director, you’re managing everything—the Link leaders are there but they don’t help as much in the process compared to Class Council. It was insane for me and Nava to pull off everything. There’s so many facets to the orientation; getting the food takes a lot of time and planning, for example. Each facet took a long time to ensure it was ready for the event, we spent basically the whole summer to plan. But the sheer moment seeing the whole gym filled with parents and students and seeing them enjoying the opening act of it; it was something so beyond me and it taught me how to deal with deadlines and planning and processes. Without that, the event wouldn’t have been as much of a success as it was. All of those things taught me the number of things to put on a great event and the sheer gratitude and relief you get when it goes well.
G: If you were president right now, what is the most urgent change you would like to implement?
K: I think the biggest thing we need to do, is to distribute ASG information to a wider audience. There’s so much information that ASG keeps that we don’t share to the student body —the constitution, record, things about our own budgets— we don’t publicly put that out there as a student government. But I think it’s important for the student body to know and see what’s going on. That’s what comes from a negative perception around ASG, that they don’t know what’s going on and they make their own assumptions about what happens. If we can give everyone all the information we have, we can help the student body understand what’s actually going on, and to understand what we do and the effort we put into all the events we host.
G: How would you better publicize what’s going on in ASG?
K: I think the issue we kinda get is that we close mind ourselves to only doing social media or something like that. But there’s so many other ways you can publicize. One thing we did in LInk in the sophomore year was giving free tickets to one of our events to all the freshmen English teachers so that they would have to pass them out and effectively force-feed them the information. But at least you know that everyone gets that information. I think for next year, we should do more things like that—getting teachers involved and letting them know where events are and using things like Loopmail and Schoolloop to publicize. Not everyone will have Instagram, Snapchat, or social media, but Schoolloop is a necessity. There’s also physical posters and flyers. Sometimes we neglect our physical publicity and focus on online things, but I think a combination of both physical and online publicity is important to reach as many segments of the population as possible.
G: What is one way you would gain input from the student body?
K: For one, our current system of the public forum needs a lot of work. There’s no incentive for people to come to our events. My main focus would be to figure out a tangible incentive for people to give us their feedback. I think also just having a more approachable ASG and being a lot more open and honest about what goes on and not try to seem like we will attack people for negative feedback would allow people to naturally give us more feedback. Some of us take negative feedback too personally sometimes, but it’s something that happens and you can’t expect everyone to be positive about everything.
G: We noticed on your website that there’s parts of the school that you sort of advertise on your website, but not really well. So how would you promote groups like band, choir, debate, robotics—some of the other groups on campus?
K: I think most of that is just a deterioration of our relationships with those groups. We don’t have direct communication with them; they do their thing, and we usually stay to ourselves. But one thing we should do is approach these groups and ask them what they need and what ASG could do to help them. If they want more people to go to their events and fundraisers, we can give them the outlet to help advertise for them. And for robotics and band, they win major competitions but we don’t give them the recognition for their achievements and the weeks they put into their work and success. So one thing I want to do is give these groups a platform for people to see all the effort these groups of people put in to go to competitions and perform at a higher level. And I think, generally speaking, we need to have better communication with them, a better foundation for us to collaborate.