Last week’s Student Community Government, Inc. elections yielded the most female-heavy Executive Council in years, with four of six positions filled by women. The four highest-ranking positions in SCG will all be held by females, which hasn’t happened in over a decade.
Kyla Pecchia, who had served as secretary this year, was elected the 43rd president of SCG. Pecchia is the first female president of SCG in eight years.
Joining Pecchia on the 2012-2013 SCG Executive Council is Hillary Costa, who will serve as vice president, Jordan Day, who kept her current position as treasurer, Gianna Auger, who was elected secretary, Travis Escobar, who was elected speaker, and Ryan Bettencourt, who was elected deputy speaker. The new board will be sworn in later this month and take office June 1.
While the elections meeting was slated to run two hours, it ran longer than anticipated, eating well into the time allotted for the regularly scheduled Parliament Sine Die meeting that followed.
Of the six positions vied for, only the role of speaker was contested by more than one declared candidate. Current two-term SCG President Escobar was elected speaker over Rep. Robert Santurri Jr. in what surprisingly was a hard-fought battle. Escobar vowed to serve as a mentor for the newly elected administration.
“I wouldn’t be the person driving the administration, I’d be the person sending my advice,” said Escobar.
After more than an hour of voting on multiple ballots for the role of speaker, Escobar defeated Santurri on the fifth and final ballot with a vote of 17-11. While it was necessary for candidates to secure 18 votes for victory, the fifth round of balloting awards the candidate with the most votes the victor. A majority of Parliament’s voting membership is otherwise required to elect.
“I’ve never had to run; I’ve always been unopposed,” said Escobar, who also ran for freshmen representative and vice president during his first four years involved with SCG. “[Santurri] was a great opponent.”
After the first three rounds, the tally was 16-12 in favor of Escobar. Current SCG Vice President George Bissell, who as chairperson of the Elections Commission was running the meeting, opened a question-and-answer session for both candidates individually, where members of Parliament were each allowed one question for the two candidates.
After more than 30 minutes of Q&A, Parliament took up their ballots for a fourth time but still only came out with less than the number of votes needed to elect a new speaker. After Bissell revealed the results, he admitted to an error made in the voting process. The vice president noted that the Q&A was supposed to have occurred after the fourth round of balloting, not the third. The vote was then put to a “sudden death” final round in which the candidate with the most votes would become the new speaker.
The race for deputy speaker took an unexpected turn, as declared candidate Rep. Nathan Bissell met with surprise write-in candidate Rep. Ryan Bettencourt in a multiple-round vote. Both candidates are finishing their first semester at Rhode Island College.
“Thanks to everyone for voting for me, and if you didn’t, thanks for participating,” Bettencourt said during his victory remarks when he was announced the new deputy speaker. He was quick to mention that Bissell was one of his first friends here at RIC.
In less-contested races, Pecchia became the next president (25-0). Despite a few write-in votes for David Valerio, Hillary Costa was voted in as the new SCG Vice President (23-3). Gianna Auger became secretary for the 2012-13 academic year (25-1). The vote for treasurer, however, saw two rounds of balloting, as uncontested candidate Jordan Day (17) was dismayed when some members wrote-in former Treasurer Brendan Cardona (7) and Deputy Speaker Thomas Lima (1), neither of which were valid or declared candidates. Day took the victory after the second round (20-6-1).
During the SCG debate forum in a nearly empty Donovan Dining Center the night before, the same messages were echoed by the many candidates: SCG needs to be re-marketed and made more visible to the student body. Concerns were focused on an apathetic student body and what the best ways to reach them are.
Pecchia said she has a strong connection to RIC, as both her parents were RIC students. She also made clear her willingness to listen to concerns of the students and to make changes where needed.
Costa said she was honored to serve – and continue to serve – the corporation and the student body. Costa, a communications major, also noted how her position will help her achieve career goals and hone her skills (the vice president also chairs SCG’s Public Relations Committee and directly oversees the communications director Cabinet position).
Auger, a psychology major and three-year College Dining Services employee, expressed just how much she cares for RIC.
Escobar and Santurri both had messages of efficiency and the ability to remain unbiased in the role of speaker. Escobar’s approach was to plug his four years of experience in Parliament, while Santurri chose the “clean slate” approach, arguing that the Executive Council would do well with fresh faces in more elected positions.
Candidate for deputy speaker Bissell, a nursing major, admitted his motivation for running: “I want to make things a lot better here.”
– With additional reporting by News Editor Katelyn Hurd