May 12, 2021

ONONYE | What I Learned When I Ran for Student Assembly President

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“My name is Anuli Ononye, I’m a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and I am running to be your next S.A. president…” 

I apologize to anyone who heard my Student Assembly president spiel more than once in the past few weeks. At this point, I have the five minute speech so deeply ingrained in my head that I can say it in my sleep. 

To preface this article, I am writing this at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 8 and I have no idea who “your next S.A. president” will be. Regardless of the election results, I can say that running for S.A. president has been the most rewarding, challenging and meaningful experience of my Cornell career. Whether you’re thinking about making your S.A. debut next election season, you can’t stand the S.A. and need one more reason to love-to-hate us, or you’re just curious about campaigning, here are my biggest takeaways from the last month:

Start With Your Platform

The best advice that I received throughout this entire campaign was to “articulate why I wanted to be S.A. president without lying to myself.” Although this seems like the bare minimum, it’s actually a harder ask than you’d think. It’s deciding why you want to spend hours a week in S.A. meetings, your summer vacation talking with administrators and the rest of your time here opening yourself up to the entire campus community. But once you get a good answer, one that’s true to yourself, true to your values and appeals to the Cornell community, it’s really easy to craft your platform and campus promises. After serving as the Student Advocate for a year, I really wanted my platform to reflect the issues I saw facing students and to envision my dream Cornell.

Get Over Your Embarrassment

Quickly. Embarrassment does nothing for you. Some of the most memorable and important parts of my campaign were the moments that I felt the most embarrassed. I pushed back so hard against making the “Dancing Queen” video because 1) I suck at singing and 2) I suck at dancing. At the end of the day, “sucking” made the videos so much funnier. I also realized that for every “F*ck you” I received when DM’ing students to vote, there were so many more students wanting to meet with me and learn about my platform. Campaigning is putting yourself out there, having a thick skin and having fun through the “cringe” moments. 

Own Up to Your Mistakes

Just do it. No one (or at least no one I know) runs a perfect campaign. While some of my endorsement meetings went well, others went not so well. There were texts unanswered and emails addressed to the wrong person. For every post that went viral, others completely flopped. Even though I’m proud of my campaign, there were things that didn’t go well. Campaigning taught me not to dwell on the mistakes, own up to them, apologize when needed and ultimately move on. 

Make Good Friends

If I can take one thing away from this election, it’s that I have amazing friends. There is no way that you can make it through an election cycle on your own, and having people by your side makes all the difference. Throughout this process, I had friends reach out to their e-boards on my behalf, bring me food when I was upset, make social media flyers and endorsement videos for me, and use social media to publicize my campaign. There is no way to thank every person who supported me through the campaign. But in particular, I’d like to thank Lotoya Francis ’22 who spent hours creating all of my Instagram content, Liel Sterling ’21 who connected me to so many amazing people on campus and Rafael Bitanga ’23 who made the amazing promotional videos that I used throughout my campaign. 

Ask a Lot of Questions 

I would like to personally apologize to this year’s elections chair, Patrick Mehler ’23, for obsessively emailing you throughout the campaign. It was definitely worth it. There are a lot of election rules and it’s worth checking to make sure that you don’t accidentally break them while campaigning. It’s checking to make sure that the Cornell Facebook pages don’t count as listservs, that mentioning your favorite Cornell Dairy Ice Cream flavor isn’t a “University endorsement,” and that providing a link to your video transcript when it’s too long to fit in the Instagram caption section is okay. 

Ask for Help 

I saved the most important for last! I am a really hard worker who absolutely hates asking for help. For that, I am really lucky that I have amazing friends who helped me even when I didn’t ask for it. But, during this campaign, I received a lot of support from people who aren’t close friends, too. I learned that it’s okay to reach out to people you met in random classes and who you only talk to at e-board meetings and ask them to  repost your pictures or drop your campaign summary into their GroupMe channels. Throughout the entire campaign process almost no one turned me down for a quick favor and that really speaks to the incredible people that we have on campus.

 
Anuli Ononye is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at aononye@cornellsun.com. Womansplaining runs every other Wednesday this semester.