By DARA LEVY
The Student Assembly announced Thursday that Sarah Balik ’15 will be the President of the S.A. for 2014-15, following elections held earlier this week.
Balik, who is currently serving as Executive Vice President, said she looks forward to leading the Assembly next year. She said her first initiative will be to try to develop a polling system as quickly as possible to get students more engaged with the S.A.
The polling system would allow representatives to spend more time on the issues that students prioritize most, according to Balik.
“My biggest goal is to have the [S.A. be] representative of the student body,” Balik said.
Juliana Batista ’16, who was elected as the S.A.’s next Executive Vice President, said she looks forward to working with Balik on the polling initiative.
“I think for me the first step is improving the transparency and accessibility of the S.A., which is something we constantly struggle with,” Batista said.
Transparency — including increased interaction between students and the S.A. — was one of Balik’s campaign initiatives in addition to sustainability, funding and health and safety.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity, and I hope I can serve the Cornell community well,” Balik said.
Batista, who is currently the women’s issues at-large representative, said “it is a really refreshing change” to have two female students leading the S.A.
Batista said during her time serving on the Assembly she “played it safe,” but now she says is looking forward to serving as the representative with the highest position that is not the unbiased chair who must remain neutral.
“I’ll be okay ruffling feathers and speaking my mind on issues I’m passionate about,” Batista said.
With 2,244 votes, Balik defeated her opponent Thaddeus Talbot ’15 who received 1,585 votes. Talbot will now serve as one of the S.A.’s undesignated at-large representative.
More than 4,700 students voted, according to Alfonse Muglia ’14, S.A. director of elections.
Muglia said a main focus of the elections committee this year was to encourage students to attend the candidates’ debates and to get student organizations more engaged in elections.
He said the endorsements from student organizations helped students better understand candidates’ platforms.
“I’d like to think it gave people a better choice,” Muglia said.
Still, Muglia said the changes did not affect voter turnout.
“It shows that a certain group on campus will vote, and a certain group on campus won’t vote,” he said.
Batista, who ran unopposed, said the low turnout could possibly be attributed to changes in the academic calendar.
She also said that the uncontested Executive Vice President race could have played a role “because people really do look to the President and Executive Vice President races as a barometer of the election.”
There were no election rules violations this year, according to Muglia. Last year, a presidential candidate was disqualified after it was found he violated the University Code of Conduct, The Sun previously reported.
Several races were very close. Shivang Tayal ’16 won the international liason at-large seat by 16 votes, and R.J. Raglin ’16 won the second minority at-large seat by 38 votes.
“All the candidates who ran really put in a lot of work,” Muglia said.
The Human Ecology representative election will go to a re-vote next Monday to Wednesday, following a technical error in which a candidate’s platform was mislinked, appearing on the ballot for both candidates, Lauren Goldman ’16 and Amber Parrish ’17, according to Muglia.
The remainder of the Student Assembly election results can be found on the S.A. website.