Julian Giordano and Shivali Korgaonkar: Leaders of the 2020-2021 Student Union

Senior Julian Giordano and junior Shivali Korgaonkar emerge unopposed as leaders of the 2020-2021 Student Union.

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By Zoe Oppenheimer

Amidst the unprecedented circumstances surrounding this school year, senior Julian Giordano and junior Shivali Korgaonkar emerged unopposed as president and vice president, respectively, of the 2020-2021 Student Union (SU).

Giordano and Korgaonkar first met through the SU. “[Korgaonkar] and I have a similarity in our past in the SU. When I first joined the SU, I joined a new position that had been created, [the] Delegate of External Affairs,” Giordano said. “[Korgaonkar] was also a Delegate of External Affairs. We shared that experience and worked together on projects.”

By attending Student Leadership Team (SLT) meetings and collaborating on the DOE initiative Students and Educators for Equity, the pair strove to represent student concerns. “Over the summer, because of the work we were able to do together during Students and Educators for Equity, we built a relationship and worked really well together,” Korgaonkar said.

In choosing a running mate, Giordano prioritized passion and drive, both of which he found in Korgaonkar. “The most important thing I look[ed] for in a vice presidential candidate was a drive to not only make the SU better, but also […] be reflective and critical,” he said. “We both have this mindset that we need to think about things from an outsider perspective and reimagine things to make ourselves and the SU better.”

In order to make changes within the SU, the pair needs to know the current SU dynamic well. Aside from both working as Delegates of External Affairs, Giordano was Vice President with Former SU President Vishwaa Sofat (’20) last year. “I believe this administration will follow through with the success of the previous one: [Giordano] and [Sofat] were very collaborative in their thought process last year, so I see [Giordano’s] previous input expanding under this new administration. Given we are now in a time where everything needs to be geared to our ‘at home’ environment though, there’s going to be an increased need for innovation. Our new leaders are definitely up to the task,” senior and SLT representative Sarai Pridgen said in an e-mail interview.

Giordano, however, is hoping to distinguish this year’s SU from last year’s. “[Korgaonkar] and I ran unopposed this year, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to pretend this is a continuation from last year and not push hard for new things,” Giordano said. “We have an ambitious plan that we’re excited to pursue, and we’re looking to hold ourselves accountable.”

Giordano and Korgaonkar’s campaign centers around three main pillars: inclusivity, equity, and accountability. “Inclusivity is about including all students within the SU and making Stuyvesant as a community inclusive, making us seem more transparent, and making students feel included in the advocacy work we’re doing. The second pillar, which is equity, permeates all aspects of our platform. It takes an important role in our school during remote learning and [COVID-19 and] racism within our school. Accountability means holding ourselves accountable to our goals,” Giordano said.

Communication is also crucial to Giordano and Korgaonkar as they aim to bridge the gap between students, teachers, and the administration. “[Former Principal Eric] Contreras once referred to us as the 3-11 line for students. That’s a role we play in the SU, answering students’ questions and concerns—we note that down and convey that to the administration,” Giordano said. “In the past few weeks, we’ve been sending out [e-mails] constantly to students with a lot of information. I can’t count how many [e-mails] I’ve sent to various members of the administration with certain questions that the students have had.”

Junior and SU Chief of Staff Theo Kubovy-Weiss added: “Our biggest goal is making sure that the transition to remote learning or a blended option is as smooth as possible and as enjoyable and safe for students as possible, and I think that as SU, we have a unique responsibility to advocate for students and make sure that their needs, priorities, and wants are heard.”

The pair has been using a multitude of different platforms as a way of communicating with students to make sure that their voices are heard and that their questions are answered. “If you look on Facebook, you’ll see [Giordano] and I commenting on the same question a million times because we want to make students know that we are willing and open and looking at the questions they ask,” Korgaonkar said.

Students have appreciated the efforts the pair have taken to facilitate communication. “I respect the way [Giordano] has been very on top of answering the hundreds of questions that have been asked in the Facebook groups throughout the summer as everyone worked to figure out the plans for the upcoming school year,” Junior Francesa Nemati said in an e-mail interview. “Their goal of bridging the gap between the students, faculty, and administration resonated with me since open communication is even more essential with all the unknowns that are present due to the pandemic.”

Both Giordano and Korgaonkar also wish to maintain some sense of normalcy during virtual learning. “We wanted to make sure clubs this year were getting the same promotion that they normally would and every club has the same access to freshmen and incoming students. So we, along with our IT team and our [executive] board, spent the entire summer remaking StuyActivities. With this comes the Virtual Club Fair and virtual meetings and scheduling,” Korgaonkar said. “That also goes into transitioning school events, like Spirit Week. We’re thinking about all the things that would make Stuy normal throughout the year and how we can continue to do those traditions in our current situation.”

Students involved in the SU feel Giordano and Korgaonkar are fit to deal with the unique school year. “If there are two people who are best equipped to handle this unfortunate situation in a way that is respectful, in a way that’s safe, in a way that’s effective, in a way that’s innovative, and can facilitate actual progress despite the hurdles that we have to overcome, then it’s [Giordano] and [Korgaonkar],” Kubovy-Weiss said.

Giordano and Korgaonkar are hoping to find ways to make the best out of COVID-19, despite the unfortunate circumstances. “There’s so much more potential for online events to the point we’re actually excited that we might be able to do more events this year than we were able to do another year,” Giordano said. “It’s easier to plan, and now that more students have devices, it’s more accessible, which is something we’re really excited about.”