Freshman Caucus Endorsements 2020
Reading Time: 18 minutes
This year sees an outstanding 16 tickets run for Freshman Caucus. Due to the high number of candidates, many of whom present impressive campaigns, as well as the mere two months of remote experience freshmen had on which to base their platforms, The Spectator is endorsing three tickets that we believe would be well suited to support the freshman class.
1. Amanda Cissé & Margaret Mikhalevsky
CAMPAIGN: The Cissé-Mikhalseky ticket has a Facebook page and an Instagram account dedicated to their campaign where they have posted introductions and insight into their platform.
PLATFORM: The ticket presents many concrete policies, including Zoom events and study halls. Some of their other goals may be ambitious and extend beyond their serving time if elected, but are plausible through their determination and willingness to make them happen.
Cissé and Mikhalevsky present an impressive campaign. Both are very composed, articulate, and mature and have a strong understanding of Stuyvesant’s student-government structure. Regarding policy, Cissé and Mikhalevsky have put together a solid set of unique policies, most notably their Academic Sites Catalog (ASC). After learning that many previous caucuses have tried—and failed—to require that teachers use standardized grading platforms, Cissé-Mikhalevsky has come up with an alternative solution: the Freshman Caucus would compile a list of the sites that each teacher uses, complete with links.
In addition, Cissé and Mikhalevsky are especially aware of racial tensions at Stuyvesant and plan on taking steps to address them. Some of these ideas are fairly ambitious, such as planning on working with the Senior Caucus to diversify English curricula, while others are more realistic, such as compiling a media recommendation list. While these policies are fairly creative, others are more common, such as game nights and study halls. And some other policies seem to go beyond the realm of Freshman Caucus, such as their planned collaboration to serve as advertisers for StuyPrep, an SHSAT tutoring service. Finally, perhaps the weakest part of the Cissé-Mikhalevsky ticket is their dynamic: they met each other at Stuyvesant and did not yet seem completely familiar with each other. This weakness is likely exacerbated by Zoom, though.
Overall, the Cisse-Mikhalevsky ticket is extraordinarily impressive: both Cissé and Mikhalevsky are confident and communicative, and especially considering their short time at Stuyvesant, the ticket presents impressive policies. Thus, The Spectator is endorsing Cissé-Mikhalevsky for Freshman Caucus.
2. Unique Zhang & Aleksey Olkhovenko
CAMPAIGN: The ticket has a great rapport given their history and friendship from middle school. They both exude passion, excitement, and composure in their campaign for Freshman Caucus, with a clear idea of the work they’d like to accomplish.
PLATFORM: Zhang and Olkhovenko’s platform, centered around their three Cs—Compassion, Communication, Community—is unique and actionable, with specific policies that can mostly address various issues among the freshman class.
The Zhang-Olkhovenko ticket brings excitement, maturity, and focus to their campaign, demonstrated by their detailed platform, dynamic relationship, and experienced mindset. Their platform boasts several ideas, which include a class group chat center, where all links to group chats would be compiled, and a club and extracurricular schedule that would help minimize overlap in club meeting times and thus allow students to be actively involved in multiple activities. Like many other candidates, Olkhovenko-Zhang hopes to enforce more of Stuyvesant’s regulations in remote learning, like the homework policy. The only aspect of the Zhang-Olkhovenko ticket with a hint of impracticality was teacher game nights, in which students would be able to play Among Us, Kahoot, and Scribble.io with their teachers.
Both Zhang and Olkhovenko have strong experience with leadership from middle school. Olkhovenko helped lead Christa McAuliffe’s Kiwanis Club, while Zhang participated in a student government program. This is apparent in their approach to Freshman Caucus as well as their heightened understanding of its operations. Zhang and Olkhovenko are already aware of the limitations they have as freshman leaders and students, though they are still ambitious and eager to do the best they can. They have extensive plans and a clear idea of which initiatives they’d want to prioritize.
Most notably, the duo has a great rapport and a seamless, balanced dynamic that stemmed from their prior relationship from middle school. The Spectator believes that, if elected, this duo would hit the ground running as Freshman Caucus co-Presidents and support their class to the best of their abilities, and is thus endorsing this ticket.
3. Yashna Patel & Jeanice Deng
CAMPAIGN: Patel-Deng has active Instagram and Facebook accounts, posting various “Meet the team” content. They also have an open “Communication Form” through which they take feedback with which to improve their platform.
PLATFORM: The pair is well aware of the limitations that are inherent to Freshman Caucus, and their platform reflects that reality—many of their proposals do not require more than cursory assistance from the administration. That’s not to say that their platform is devoid of ambition, though—they also include several bigger target accomplishments, including a change in the way freshmen are seeded into classes.
Yashna Patel and Jeanice Deng are promising candidates for Freshman Caucus. They are both well-versed in leadership, and both said that their experience had taught them valuable skills in communication and important lessons about reaching out and connecting with others.
What truly defines the Patel-Deng ticket is their combination of ambition and self-awareness. They made it clear that they are well aware of the limitations that come with Freshman Caucus, and their policies are geared accordingly toward achievability. For example, Patel-Deng proposes student art showcases on social media, optional Zoom study halls during free periods, and a “Sports Social Media Wall,” where student-athletes can replicate the “team experience” that they would receive in normal circumstances. Their emphasis on creating friendships between the freshmen class is evident, and the majority of these socially focused policies seem perfectly feasible without the help of the administration.
Though they focus on policies that are achievable, their platform is also rather ambitious. Patel-Deng plans on working to tackle bigger problems regarding the relationship between students and the administration. One of their proposed policies is to ensure more transparency on the administration’s part when it comes to course admission and rejections. They also propose eliminating the use of the SHSAT to place freshmen into classes, arguing that it disadvantages students who got into Stuyvesant via the Discovery Program. Furthermore, they recognize that not all students are comfortable with their cameras on, and they promise to attempt to change that requirement. In their interview, they stated that there are other alternatives to prove student engagement rather than having students show their presence on video, like active participation. Patel and Deng both realize that changes made would affect students for years to come, and they hope to set the precedent for future Freshman Caucuses.
Patel-Deng’s motto, “For the people,” has held true throughout their proposed policies and their ideology shown in their interview. The pair truly has valuable ideas for creating and fighting for the best freshman experience possible, while also recognizing the extent of their reach. The Spectator endorses this ticket.
4. Janice Lee & Richard Yom
CAMPAIGN: The Lee-Yom ticket has a well-organized Instagram account and Facebook account to promote their platform with a substantial following on both, with the pair posting significantly more on Instagram. They are also hosting a movie night on November 13, a unique initiative to promote their candidacy.
PLATFORM: Though the candidates’ ideas are inventive and intend to foster community, the ticket’s platform lacks planning regarding the implementation of these ideas.
The Lee-Yom platform, which begins with an enthusiastic “HELLO PARTY PEEPS!!!”, emphasizes inclusivity and transparency among the freshmen student body. Though their policies are creative—and the duo emphasizes how realistic their ideas are—many seem overly ambitious. The enthusiasm and adaptability are there, but the necessary coordination and strategy are largely absent.
The pair’s ideas circle largely around community-building ideas including Monthly Contests, Game Nights, Student Union (SU) Olympics, and Teacher Olympics. Freshmen would be able to connect both with each other and with the administration and the SU in a friendly environment through games. They also wish to introduce weekly emotional health check-ins via Google Forms or Buzzfeed quizzes, which is a considerate, if unoriginal, initiative. Policies such as these seem to be modeled after previous SU activities, which demonstrates a useful awareness. Other proposals such as implementing freshmen ID cards (students would be allowed to submit photos of their choosing) and an in-person Cultural Food Appreciation Day seem less thought-out and unfeasible. To its credit, the ticket acknowledged the bold nature of these ideas and clarified they would focus primarily on their community-based events.
There is a friendly and respectful dynamic between Lee and Yom, who have known each other for six years. Though Lee seems to dominate, this makes sense, as she is running for president with Yom as vice president. The duo carries an air of diffidence, however, which, coupled with a shallow understanding of the execution of their policies, does not make them the most promising candidates for Freshman Caucus. The Spectator does not endorse this ticket.
5. Chloe Tom & Kaitlin Tan
CAMPAIGN: Tom and Tan have an affable demeanor and affect, including clear personal chemistry.
PLATFORM: While the Tom-Tan platform is fairly light on substance, it demonstrates a clear understanding of the Freshman Caucus’s role at Stuyvesant.
If elected, Tom and Tan would serve their class well. They share a genuine enthusiasm for the job they’re seeking—that is, they’re not just running for the title—and they have a good sense of what they’d actually be doing on it. As co-presidents, they would host events to promote cultural and LGBTQ+ acceptance, and they would create a channel for students to reach out to the administration if confronted with bigotry or other discomfort while using their role to help victims themselves, though they recognized that they would be constrained in any punitive measures.
They would also create video game-playing events. While many Caucus candidates in the age of COVID-19 put forward similar ideas, they demonstrated a keen awareness of why exactly such events are helpful, proposing community-building games that force players to interact with one another, such as Among Us and Spyfall.
Their platform, despite its assets, is quite light: it consists of three pages, only two of which are about policies, and in 14-point font size to boot. For this reason, The Spectator chooses to endorse other candidates instead. But we have confidence that, should they win, they will be successful.
6. Aharnish Dev & Julian Huang
CAMPAIGN: The Dev-Huang ticket has a solid, if unremarkable, campaign presence. They have Facebook and Instagram accounts with the standard “Meet the Candidates,” “Meet the Team,” and platform posts. They were a little late to get started, though, as all of the posts are from the second week of November.
PLATFORM: Though the Dev-Huang ticket certainly filled the check marks for their record and campaign, their platform lacks the concrete goals required.
The Dev-Huang ticket stands out for its impressive record: Dev and Huang both have extensive experience that could prove to be helpful in potentially governing the freshman class. Dev served as the president of the National Junior Honor Society in middle school, plays several instruments, and was the president of his elementary school. Huang was a member of his middle school’s student government, debate team, math team, mentored younger students, and plays baseball and the piano. The two candidates, who met at Stuyvesant, share a plethora of previous leadership experience that will translate well into leading the Freshman Caucus.
Despite its strong record, Dev-Huang ticket suffers from inconsistent, mediocre efforts to engage with freshmen. The Dev-Huang ticket’s online presence consists of a Facebook page and an Instagram account, both of which contain various informative and creative posts. Both social media pages, however, only feature posts from the second week of November, showing no evidence of online campaigning during the early stages of the election.
The Dev-Huang ticket also falls short in its unrealistic platform. Aside from sending e-mail reminders and surveys and organizing game nights, the Dev-Huang ticket does not propose any unique initiatives. Other policies, such as holding a Cultural Food Day and Cosplay Convention, partnering with unity groups to host fundraisers and drives, establishing a peer-tutoring and college access program, and promoting performing arts clubs, are extremely vague and infeasible.
Overall, the Dev-Haung’s strong record does not compensate for its lack of a thorough platform and consistent campaign effort. For this reason, The Spectator does not endorse this ticket.
7. William Tang & Eshaal Ubaid
CAMPAIGN: Tang and Ubaid have a tangible drive and chemistry that will likely provide for a dependable and grounded Caucus, should the duo be elected.
PLATFORM: Focused primarily on effective communication, the Tang-Ubaid ticket is running on a solid platform that trades groundbreaking concepts for achievable goals.
Hailing from Hunter Middle School, Tang and Ubaid make up a fairly realistic ticket in the Freshman Caucus election. While their middle school did not offer many leadership opportunities, Tang and Ubaid were able to garner some relevant Freshman Caucus-related experience throughout their time at Hunter. Complementing each other’s strengths and playing to their weaknesses, Tang participated in more concrete student government councils and organizations while Ubaid focused more on cultural clubs, though both lack especially relevant leadership experience.
The ticket has established its platform through a social media presence consisting of an Instagram account and Facebook page with a considerable following. They also used their official website to efficiently outline their policies and provide links and resources that put their values of transparency and accessibility into practice. These collective platforms reflected balanced chemistry between the candidates and strong dedication that only grew clearer from their interview.
Though a majority of their policies aren’t necessarily novel and extrapolate on systems already in place (i.e. expanded Study Guide sharing programs, Freshman Game Nights, etc.), the Tang-Ubaid platform has considered and adjusted to the limitations of Freshman Caucus to propose ideas that have a sense of reliability and feasibility.
The most enticing part of the ticket, however, is likely the pair’s chemistry and can-do attitudes. With a focused cohesion and a clear drive to benefit the freshman class, the Tang-Ubaid team is a reliable yet not groundbreaking Freshman Caucus duo.
8. Eliza Oppenheimer & Carter Lim
CAMPAIGN: The Oppenheimer-Lim platform has an Instagram account, a Facebook account, and a well-organized website. They, however, have minimally used their social media accounts to advertise their platform.
PLATFORM: Though their platform has feasible ideas, most are only surface-level. It is difficult to tell whether the candidates have the drive to make their ideas a reality.
The Oppenheimer-Lim ticket centers around fostering a community among the freshman class while under remote settings. Though their intentions are in the right place, many of their policies are underdeveloped and lack a thorough plan as to how they would bring their policy to fruition.
Many of Oppenheimer and Lim’s ideas focus on student engagement. Should there be a low student turnout, though, their policies will fall short. More specifically, the ticket’s primary focus is hosting speed-dating-esque five-minute meetings, aimed at having freshmen get to know each other. Both candidates, however, lacked a specific plan in how they would garner participation from their grade. Though reasonable to expect given their mere two months of attendance so far, they seem to be unaware of currently existing programs at Stuyvesant. For example, they propose ideas similar to the existing Pen Pal program and ARISTA tutoring. A few of their ideas are quite viable, including holiday-themed Instagram posts, food art contests, and “secret snowflake” (similar to Secret Santa). Other policies, however, are less realistic, like forming partnerships with gyms and museums, which is already difficult for a Freshman Caucus to do, but more so given the current circumstances.
While Oppenheimer and Lim have prior experience working together, they seem to lack chemistry throughout the interview and had minimal enthusiasm for their campaign and policies. Therefore, The Spectator will not be endorsing this ticket.
9. Kyle H. Chan & Nelli Rojas-Cessa
CAMPAIGN: The Chan-Rojas-Cessa ticket has an Instagram account, a Facebook page, and a solid website. However, they, haven’t used them to advertise their campaign much thus far.
PLATFORM: Their platform has solid ideas, though nothing astonishing. There isn’t much in terms of administrational changes, though the candidates do seem to possess the willingness to get everything done.
The Chan-Rojas-Cessa ticket is composed of two Christa McAuliffe Middle School graduates who are longtime friends and work very well together. While neither have much experience in student government, both have a strong record of leadership in middle school. Chan and Rojas-Cessa have experience in event planning, including organizing dances, and candy grams, all of which are traditional Freshman Caucus events. Chan is also a youth ambassador for New York City Road Runners, providing him with more background in organizing events, and Rojas-Cessa was co-captain of her middle school girls’ basketball team, on which she learned the importance of teamwork.
Chan and Rojas-Cessa’s ideas for the Freshman Caucus are nothing incredible, but they are feasible. Their plan of virtual study sessions, in which students are matched with classmates, seems like a helpful way for freshmen to get to know each other. They also look to institute gaming tournaments with prizes and commentators for livestreams, but the gaming events are nothing new, and the aspect of hiring commentators seems unrealistic. Chan and Rojas-Cessa have the drive to accomplish all their goals, but a lack of administrational plans doesn’t help their case.
10. Ivy Huang & Emma Kwan
CAMPAIGN: Huang and Kwan have an Instagram page but lack a Facebook page. In general, they have not taken advantage of the opportunity social media provides to promote themselves.
PLATFORM: Huang and Kwan’s platform is focused on their relatability to their peers, emphasizing the common struggles they are going through this year. Most of the policies they detail revolve around holding events for students to bond with teachers and one another.
Huang and Kwan’s platform is focused on connecting with their fellow freshmen, emphasizing the common struggles they are going through during quarantine. Though they have a similar vision for improving the freshman experience as their opponents, Huang and Kwan make an effort to show sympathy for their fellow classmates. They have some event ideas such as game and movie nights as well as chat sessions over Zoom for specific interests. Many clubs, however, already host such events. Some novel policies include late-night study support groups, which, albeit a nice concept, might promote unhealthy work behavior. Some of their other unique proposals include having every teacher make introduction videos on Flipgrid or having days dedicated to student-teacher bonding, but it is unclear as to how much of an impact this will have on the freshmen body. Overall, their platform has good intentions, but their policies are neither the most practical nor innovative. The Spectator will not be endorsing the Huang-Kwan ticket.
11. Soham Mukherjee & Tara Suri
CAMPAIGN: Mukherjee and Suri have an Instagram page dedicated to their campaign and have posted an infographic on their personal Facebook accounts. Their campaign, however, does not have a Facebook page, and they haven’t used social media to provide much insight into their platform.
PLATFORM: Mukherjee and Suri’s platform emphasizes communication with the student body.
If elected, Mukherjee and Suri pledge to listen to the freshman class’s interests and serve them accordingly. They used a Google Form to poll their grade and determined that the top concerns of the student body were homework and stress, which aligns with their promise to cater their leadership to the needs of their grade. However, they, don’t offer much in the way of concrete policy other than virtual get-togethers such as multiplayer games, so it’s questionable what they would pursue once elected. While their desire to serve their grade is admirable, they seem to lean on this in lieu of solid plans of action.
12. Ashley Yang & Sheldon Liu
PLATFORM: The Yang-Liu ticket is focused on four ideas: community building, mental health awareness, working with upper caucuses, and remote learning assistance. While its plans are well-intentioned, they are neither specific nor unique, and it’s unclear how the ticket would actually carry out its ideas.
CAMPAIGN: The pair have an Instagram account, but there aren't any posts, and they have no Facebook page.
RECORD: Yang and Liu both have extensive prior experience in leadership. Yang has had experience in her elementary schools’ student council and leading her middle school newspaper; additionally, she has worked with an unspecified nonprofit organization in New York City, which she says has allowed her to learn skills like implementing change. Liu has also served on his elementary school council and has participated in charities for the homeless. He was also the tennis team captain in middle school.
The Yang-Liu ticket is very focused on community-building activities for the student body. Such events include bonding events on Zoom—where the Caucus would pair students based on interests and hobbies and allow them to socialize—or gaming tournaments. Their mental health awareness policies also lack both specificity and feasibility. For example, while it aims to host “events on handling stress and other pressures related to school,” it’s unclear as to what events they would hold or how they’d advertise them to the student body. They also plan to have “no homework nights.” The ticket additionally aims to work with upper caucuses to “amplify freshman voices and problems to be addressed/remedied by upperclassmen/caucus,” which isn’t specific. Finally, the ticket has well-intentioned policies for remote learning assistance; it plans to work toward a designated eating time for students as well as a weekly survey to gauge the average amount of homework time for each class. While it’s clear that the two have a good idea of the grievances of the freshman class, they lack a specific plan to address those grievances.
13. Sarah Diaz & Maya Pulawska
PLATFORM: Diaz and Pulawska are very focused on fostering connections among the freshmen class. They plan to organize group bonding calls based on common interests and study Zooms for those who are struggling. Most of their ideas, however, don’t expand past bonding sessions.
CAMPAIGN: Diaz and Pulawska have an Instagram account for their campaign, but they have only posted once.
Though well-intentioned, the Diaz-Pulawska ticket falls short in presenting creative policies, presenting valid concerns of the student body but underdeveloped solutions to combat them. The duo seems to direct their attention primarily on bonding activities and mental health, which are crucial components to a successful freshman year. Their idea for weekly meditation, however, feels unlikely, while their social nights and Zoom calls are common among all the candidates. Moreover, their platform lacks information on how they plan to achieve their goals. The pen pal program they propose, for example, accurately identifies a need for communication and interaction across cultures but does not explain how they will overcome the difficulties that come with running an international program. The Spectator does not endorse this ticket.
14. Aniket Roy & Joseph Disomma
CAMPAIGN: To our knowledge, the Roy-Disomma ticket did not campaign via social media or any other means.
PLATFORM: The Roy-Disomma ticket emphasizes realism but fails to name many specific policies they hope to effect.
The main point of the Roy-Disomma campaign is that, in their own words, their “whole platform is generally based on [them] being realistic and knowing [their] limits.” To prove this point, Roy-Disomma claims that their policies will not be extravagant but will instead be realistic and achievable. Most importantly, the policies will focus on helping students strike a balance between school and relaxation. While this proposal sounds promising, Roy-Disomma fails to provide any specific policies besides “lecture hall” events, in which freshmen can bond with upperclassmen (these sound strikingly similar to the goal of the Big Sibs program). Beyond that, the Roy-Disomma campaign does not provide much other information. The Spectator does not endorse this ticket.
15. Caroline Hon & Angela Lin
CAMPAIGN: The pair have a clear idea of the needs of their freshman class, though they lack specificity with goals and certain objectives.
PLATFORM: The Hon-Lin ticket has a brief platform that, while containing a general focus and idea, does not have any concrete plans other than bonding events and communication.
Though Hon and Lin’s platform for The Spectator is short, it includes some achievable goals. Their emphasis on centralizing information and conveying the expectations of the freshman class to their peers is important. They plan to foster communication with and among their freshman peers but do not flesh out these plans to the extent that other tickets did. In addition, their emphasis on encouraging participation during class discussion is not in line with the purpose and aims of a Freshman Caucus. Though they hope to engage their peers in bonding events like movie and game nights, common ideas during this election, they lack any specific plans for how they would engage and support their grade aside from relaying freshman concerns and hosting social events. Finally, despite saying they would place inclusivity, diversity, and equity at the forefront of their ticket, they do not provide any detailed plan for how they would do so. Overall, it is unclear what specific action items Hon and Lin hope to pursue to support their grade, and for this, The Spectator does not endorse this ticket.
16. Rebecca Bao & Erica Chen
CAMPAIGN: They maintain a website and an Instagram account but have little engagement from their peers.
PLATFORM: Bao and Chen’s policies tackle very few areas and are overly ambitious.
The Bao-Chen campaign focuses on three values: self-representation, self-exploration, and self-expression. In the era of remote learning, the two want to create an atmosphere for their grade to be themselves, show themselves, and know themselves. While they try to implement this by uniting the freshman class through activities like movie nights, their platform is unoriginal and unrealistic.
Their policy regarding webinars to host influential people is overly ambitious, with no solid plan for execution. They aim high, hoping to host a variety of speakers ranging from Mark Zuckerberg to Emma Watson in order to expose freshmen to different career fields. We, however, doubt that these guest speakers will be attainable. In addition, their idea for a grade-wide project-based competition that guarantees extra credit for the top submissions is too dependent upon the SU and teachers, making the success of this idea contingent on the teachers’ willingness to provide monthly extra credit.
Bao and Chen’s goal to unify their grade is commendable, but due to their lack of experience and superficial platform, The Spectator does not endorse this ticket.