The Daily Northwestern

Letter to the Editor: For student body leaders, Sky and Emily are the wrong choice

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

As we approach the last days of this election season, I get more and more frustrated with this process. As speaker of the Senate for Associated Student Government, I was asked to remain neutral in order to act as a liaison and adviser to the candidates and election commission. As my term ended officially last night and I reached a tipping point in my frustrations, I want to explain why you cannot, and should not, vote for Sky Patterson and Emily Ash.

I have been working in ASG for two years, and in that time I encountered Sky as a senator and as a general member of the black community. I’ve seen and heard the ways in which she has been difficult to work with due to her lack of collaborative skills in that role. I had not realized how serious this was until the beginning of my term as speaker, when I sat in on executive board selection committees. When it was time to select the vice president for academics, Sky applied. During deliberations, I asked another member of the selection committee what their opinion of Sky was and how they thought the two of them would get along. That person told me about the disrespectful behavior Sky displayed in their interactions with one another: She was rude, entitled and didn’t put her whole effort into the job.

I told them that if they don’t think they can manage and be comfortable with her, that would be a problem for exec. Sky was chosen despite this, and I was soon proven correct. I have never worked with anyone so unwilling to be managed and so openly rude to their student body president as Sky. It got to the point where Sky called outgoing ASG President Nehaarika Mulukutla during Fall Quarter, yelling and being combative, and resigned from her position — not because she was unable to do it or had an overload in her schedule, but because she was too childish to simply allow the person to whom she reported to have oversight. That’s the kind of team member that Sky is. She was eventually convinced to come back but with no less attitude. If she can’t work as a team member on an executive board, she is not qualified to lead one either.

Her inability to lead has carried over into this campaign process. Sky and Emily want to be the head of an organization in which members will be held accountable both to them and to a student body to whom they will ultimately be held accountable. However, the demonstrated lack of consideration for election guidelines and the privacy and consideration of students is unacceptable.

From recruitment of campaign personnel long before the acceptable period to using a listserv that I feel violates the directory’s terms of use, MailChimp’s terms of use and the privacy of every student who received that email, they have demonstrated a lack of regard for the rules. They have tried to excuse themselves by laying blame on the election commission for bias that does not exist. The election commission and senior leadership have made special concessions during the campaign cycle to make sure that we aren’t being frivolous or too harsh — we understand what implications removing a candidate from the ballot could have. However, while I respect that concern for optics, that doesn’t mean everyone should have to tiptoe around the feelings and improper actions of that team.

Sky and Emily have also cited a sort of unspoken precedent for how campaigns are typically run, when violations are not always addressed and certain shady behavior is normalized. No one in the leadership of this organization is naive to the problems of perception and mistrust among the student body; I have felt that way in my time here. But there are people who do good work here and who want to make this organization more transparent and open, less toxic and more focused on wellness from the inside of ASG to the rest of campus. Candidates who do not honor that from the very beginning — before being in office — are not the kind of leaders we should have.

From not honoring the rules to not honoring the voices of students and the work of student groups and individuals, Sky and Emily do not respect this community. On their platform they cite initiatives and accomplishments that are not their own — ones that were either done by the other ticket or by student organizers without the help of either Sky or Emily. Some examples are gender-open housing and bathrooms, the trans-inclusive faculty guide, the work of the Coalition that has spearheaded the To Be Departments campaign and a different coalition of students working on protest policy.

Austin Gardner, as vice president for accessibility and inclusion, created a sub-committee during his term that specifically works on elevating the voices and addressing the concerns of trans and gender non-conforming students on this campus. That committee has put in months of work and research to address issues of gender-open housing and gender-neutral bathrooms. The legislation passed last quarter was submitted by this committee, who at no point received help from Sky or Emily.

The head of this committee and the person who has put in an incredible amount of work is Adam Davies. Their work should not be co-opted or dismissed as it was in this case and as it was in the case of the faculty guides Sky introduced as a resource for faculty to use for the purpose of inclusion last quarter. Adam put in weeks of research and time, along with Seri Lee (another member of this committee) to help put this together. However, their labor has at no point been acknowledged.

Once again, the labor of students was not addressed in the To Be Departments campaign that neither Sky nor Emily have had substantive affiliation with. The protest policy coalition was spearheaded by Alecia Richards and Austin Gardner, encompassing a variety of student activists from across campus.

One of Sky’s biggest claims is her work on Books for Cats. The truth is that the project was spearheaded by Yasmeen Wood and the analytics committee, and when invited to help, Sky — just as she did with protest policy work — co-opted and downplayed the work of others. Her “accomplishments” are not only misrepresentations, but active erasure of the real work that other students have put in. I can’t abide by hopefuls for leadership that do not respect their constituencies. Co-opting the labor of student activists while claiming to be ones who drove change is not the kind of leadership we need or deserve.

What I wish to accomplish in writing this, though it may seem otherwise, is not to vilify Sky and Emily as individuals. But in an election that is about results, intentions, values and real work, we need to consider what we’ve seen and what’s been done when we vote. I’ve considered that, and I will be voting for Justine Kim and Austin: candidates who have expressly stated their commitment to grassroots efforts, to student voices, to accessibility and inclusion and collaborative leadership. They are the president and executive vice president that we need and that we can trust. I urge you all to remember that as polls open tonight.

Daniella Lumpkin, former ASG Speaker of the Senate