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Thursday, July 7, 2022


Professional politicians could take a lesson from the campaign for Student Government Association president and vice president that concluded Wednesday night on the St. Thomas campus of the University of the Virgin Islands:
Conduct a civil and informative campaign, and the people will come out to vote.
Voter turnout for Wednesday's election was double or even triple the usual numbers, according to student activities supervisor Junie Violenes. A total of 313 ballots was cast. Upwards of 800 students were eligible to vote.
Arash Pahlavan, a 23-year-old sophomore business major, was elected president, defeating Donnie Dorsett, a 21-year-old junior political science major, 211 to 86.
For vice president, the results went the other way: Lesley Prince, Dorsett's running mate, won out 151 to 143 over Tricia Esdaille, who ran with Pahlavan.
Prince wasn't even on campus to campaign; he's on an exchange program this semester, attending classes at Emory University in Atlanta. But Dorsett campaigned on behalf of both of them as a team.
Violenes attributed the larger turnout to "the fact that you had two teams and both really campaigned."
But not only that; they campaigned on their platform issues, not on personalities. And they often did it together in a consolidated effort to overcome the voter apathy among the student body that has long been the rule. Going around the campus in tandem, Pahlavan and Dorsett spoke to classes and other gatherings and button-holed students one on one. Both said their main focus was to represent and fight for student rights.
After the results were tallied Wednesday around 9 p.m., both presidential candidates said they hoped to work with each other in the coming year.
Dorsett, currently a junior class representative on the SGA Council, also said he would run for a senior representative seat in the fall elections.
Student apathy has meant not only small voter turnouts but also a shortage of candidates for SGA positions in the past, Violenes noted. "Traditionally students are not interested in running for student government," she said. "There are usually write-in candidates."
Such was still the case for treasurer this time. Only write-in votes were cast. Celeste Rogers received 44, winning out over Deborah Taylor, who got 28.
And in the St. Croix campus SGA election held a week ago, there were only two registered candidates — one each for president and vice president. Both — Oceana James for president and Joscaira Almonte for vice president — were elected, handily outpointing a smattering of write-in votes. All votes for the senior, junior and sophomore class representatives were write-ins.
Freshman elections will be held in the fall.
There was also just one declared candidate for the position of student representative to the UVI Board of Trustees, Christopher Highfield. Students on both St. Thomas and St. Croix vote for this position, which alternates between the two campuses from one year to the next. Highfield, a St. Thomas student, received 51 votes on St. Croix and 22 on St. Thomas.
UVI students must have an I.D. card in order to vote. In order to receive an I.D., they must pay student activity fees at the time of registration. The fees are mandatory for full-time students and optional for part-timers. UVI has about 800 full-time students on St. Thomas and about 350 on St. Croix and roughly twice that many part-time students.

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