Senate candidates establish platforms in presidential debate

Candidates Ramez Rizk and Jonah Steinweh-Adler running for the student senate presidential debate took the floor this last week. PHOTO CREDIT: Lucas Masiello | Staff Photographer

The University of Rhode Island’s Student Senate held its presidential debate on Monday, Feb. 27, where two presidential and vice presidential candidates took the floor. 

The two presidential candidates are Emily Gamache, a third-year student at URI majoring in health sciences and current vice president of the Senate, and Ramez Rizk, a second-year pharmacy major and international student from Egypt.

Christopher Hoover, a third-year accounting major and current director of treasury, ran alongside Gamache as her vice presidential candidate. Jonah Steinweh-Adler, a second-year double majoring in journalism and history and current campus tour guide, ran with Rizk as his vice presidential candidate.

Gamache said that her top properties are to continue to build strong senate-staff communication and prioritize acceptance and inclusivity within the URI community.

Rizk said that his main goals are to work to build a syllabus bank where students can access syllabi before enrolling in a course, raise awareness about the student senate and support underrepresented organizations on campus. By spreading the word about the Senate, Rizk hopes to better represent the opinions of students and increase student impact on campus.

Gamache has been involved in the Senate in all of her three years at URI, and stated that her projects as campus chair in her first and second-year, as well as her experience as Vice President of the Senate, demonstrate her “passion for leadership.” As campus chair, Gamache worked on the “Aunt Flow” project, which distributes free menstrual products across campus, in addition to revising the University’s bus routes.

The student senate’s outreach to the University about removing the mask mandate was when Gamache first realized her power to voice the opinions of others. 

“We are finally at a period of time where campus is normal and culture is ready for a revamp, as this will be the first year of the entire University in having students here post-COVID,” Gamache said. “I believe this is a stepping stone in a new direction, where we can be more inclusive, more collaborative, more empowering and build a strong community overall.”

As a global ambassador, current resident assistant (RA) and former student Senator, Rizk said that he represents international students and is connected within the University. His goals for the Senate are aimed at enhancing academic and campus lifestyle, with ideas such as the online syllabus bank and student-chosen music in campus dining halls.

Rizk emphasized his involvement in Multicultural Student Services Center clubs and the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, and said that he founded a club within the College of Pharmacy. In his first year at URI, Rizk attended meetings with InterVarsity and Rhody Christian Fellowship, and has also formed connections with the people in Sankofa.

Rizk stated that his job as an RA has taught him how to have better communication through solving roommate disagreements and working to more clearly articulate things.

“We have innovation, we have creativity,” Rizk said. “We know how to create things… The syllabus bank has not been introduced to URI yet.”

Hoover became director of treasury towards the end of his first year in the Senate, and has held that position for two years. In this position, Hoover worked with over 150 student organizations and budgeted $1.3 million each year. 

As director, Hoover met with Ellen Reynolds, interim vice president in the division of student affairs, and worked out two $3,000 grants. These grants were for the Student Alliance for the Welfare of Africa and the Cape Verdean Students Association, in response to a difficult funding year for the organizations because of a lapse in their executive boards.

“I will always stand by the fact that if given a purpose, I can ultimately drive change that makes a difference for my peers,” Hoover said. “[It] is my peers that give me this purpose.”

Hoover hopes to revamp Senate finances by pushing for online accounting systems that can be used by University clubs. He emphasized the importance of Senate involvement in campus and club activities.

Steinweh-Adler, Rizk’s running-mate for vice president of the Senate, is a campus tour guide, teachers assistant and is a part of the Middle Eastern Students Association. 

His main objective is to advocate for food sustainability on campus. By bringing this goal through the campus committee, harnessing a student voice and continuing to speak to Dining Services Director Pierre St-Germain, Steinweh-Adler hopes to tackle food waste.

Gamache believes that the housing situation is one of the biggest issues that URI is facing. She hopes to encourage more students to attend Narragansett Town Council meetings, and wants to work more with the University to show the student body’s opinion on the lack of guaranteed housing and reinstated three-student dorms.

Rizk stated that the food on campus is URI’s biggest problem, including issues of food sustainability, food quality and amount of food options. Rizk hopes to work with dining services and develop a strong student voice that will help solve these issues.

The winner of the election will take Senate President Grace Kiernan’s place after a year of service.