“Feel my palms, oh my God,” Vice President-elect Michael Gallagher said. President-elect Sitara Nath reached over and cupped his hand in hers, “They’re so sweaty!”
On Wednesday night, Nath and Gallagher were elected ASUP president and vice president after less than a week of campaigning. Nath and Gallagher took home 61.2 percent of the vote, defeating candidates Alex Peterson and Carrie Fitzgerald, who received 37.8 percent of the vote.
Students voted for five positions for the ASUP Executive Board. Two of those races will still be ongoing. A run-off election for director of finance will take place between Brandon Wester and Wyatt Dykhuizen, and for director of communications between Kathleen Burks and Sven Shoultz. Kaity Sullivan was elected Campus Program Board (CPB) director in a single-candidate race for the position.
According to Nath, she and Gallagher represent a historic kind of diversity in their new roles. Nath said that there has never been a woman of color in the role of ASUP president, and the role of vice president has never been filled by an openly gay man.
“The reason I have always been kind of disappointed with ASUP is that I didn’t feel like it was a place where I could, where people like me, where people with our identities, could rise to the forefront and be in the leadership,” Nath said. “But this is such a big step… Creating that kind of hope for students (from underrepresented groups) when they come here is a privilege and an honor.”
Nath said that their win Wednesday night is a symbol of change for the UP community. When serving as ASUP president and vice president, Nath and Gallagher will be representing the student body in many conversations with UP’s decision makers. They said that their own diversity brings a face to issues that are often discussed in the abstract.
“This is, for me, such a phenomenal way in which we made a fracture in the glass ceiling,” Nath said. “It’s so inspiring to have Michael by my side, like, we made history!”
Nath and Gallagher ran on the platform of “engagement, inclusivity, and transparency” and expressed plans to work towards the implementation of a diversity center during their term. Gallagher also mentioned the merits of their opponents’ platform and said they plan to address issues such as crosswalk safety and sustainability.
“Our campaign is super cool in that we designed it to be flexible, so a lot of the stuff that Alex and Carrie ran on, we’re totally incorporating that,” Gallagher said. “Those are such good ideas.”
Peterson and Fitzgerald ran on a platform of “safety, sustainability and service.” They said they and build a greater sense of community. After receiving news of their loss, Peterson thanked Fitzgerald, the student body for their support and his “mom, for everything else.”
“This election did not play out the way we would have liked it to, but our ultimate goal has still been met: The Associated Students of the University of Portland will be faithfully and relentlessly represented next year and the genuine love we all share for our community will continue to make it even better,” Peterson said in an email to The Beacon Wednesday night.
Nath and Gallagher explained that they hope to be advocates for students, and this means going out onto campus and making themselves available.
One tenet of Nath and Gallagher’s platform was “transparency.” Nath said that the importance of explaining the kind of role ASUP plays on campus became increasingly important this semester, after students reacted to a .
“Especially after the pay raise, we did a ton of outreach being like, ‘We clearly did something wrong. What can we do next that will help you feel like you’re heard?’” said Nath, who is currently serving as an ASUP senator for the College of Arts and Sciences.
The pair stressed that the emphasis of their work should always be oriented towards students, not administrators.
“I want to take the energy and the wants of the student body and package it in a way that the administration will (understand),” Gallagher said.
Nath and Gallagher planned their campaign in a week and a half, when typically candidates spend roughly three months preparing. Gallagher stepped in as a candidate for vice president after Nath’s original running mate, Sam Starkey, withdrew from the race for health reasons. Nath said they were able to pull off the win due to the nature of their campaign: “It was so personal.”
“Campaigning is something that happens during an election cycle,” Nath said. “Relationship building, for us, is a lifetime practice. That’s really what our strength was.”
They explained that it barely felt like campaigning, but more like checking in with friends from all over campus to explain their platform and to encourage them to vote.
Gallagher also drew on this idea of campus engagement at Speech Night, explaining that he hopes to break down barriers between the student body and ASUP just by being himself - open, friendly and involved.
With only a few posters and a Snapchat filter, Gallagher said that the pair’s personality and presence on campus was the most effective aspect of their campaign.
“Authenticity is our principle,” Nath said. “Be a human being first and foremost. I think we met people where they were at.”
Before they take office in the fall, Nath and Gallagher both have a lot to do. Gallagher is studying for the MCAT, the medical school admissions exam, which he will take in May, in hopes of going straight into medical school after he graduates from UP in 2019. And Nath, who is still trying to pin down a summer internship, plans to spend the summer working and planning for ASUP.
Nath said she put life plans on hold to run for president. She had planned to take the LSAT, the law school admissions exam, her senior year and attend law school after graduation, but decided that preparing for the test would put too much of a strain on her work in ASUP.
“I wanted to invest my whole self into this,” she said.
Nath said that campaigning, even for a short time, made her realize that she might enjoy a future career in politics.
“This is my test,” Nath said. “I’ve always been interested in practicing law, at least for the past few years, and then campaigning was the most fun thing I’ve ever done. It brought everything wonderful about Michael and I to the forefront.”