Benya Kraus announces candidacy for TCU President

TCU President Benya Kraus poses for a portrait in front of Ballou Hall on April 20. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article stated that the election for TCU President is on Tuesday, but it has been moved to Wednesday.

Benya Kraus, the diversity & community affairs officer for Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate, is the only candidate for Wednesday’s election for TCU President. As a result, this year’s election will be uncontested, and Kraus, a junior, is the presumptive president-elect for the next academic year.

Kraus said that, having moved around frequently while growing up, she is passionate about the idea of finding a home. She added that she has been trying to center her campaign on the phrase, “Home as place and home as each other.”

“I’ve grown up moving to a lot of different communities and have always found ways to make different places my homes,” Kraus said. “Coming to Tufts … I feel very invested in making sure that other people can find home here, despite how difficult that may seem.”

She explained that she wants to focus on home both as a physical space and as a supportive community. She pointed out that some places on campus are underutilized and that financial resources are consolidated in certain locations.

“If you just look at a map of our campus right now, it even just physically looks segregated,” Kraus said. “If you want to create [a] home and bring people together, you need to have a physical design that allows you to bring people together.”

She said that she feels the campus has become divided on controversial issues and that she wants to bring people together.

“I think everyone is dealing with a lot of hurt in different ways,” she said. “What if we could use that hurt to really listen to each other and feel the sense that we want to alleviate the hurt of other people?”

In particular, Kraus would like to create more shared social spaces on campus, including a campus pub in the Mayer Campus Center. Her campaign website also calls for the creation of a more diverse system of theme houses and improving student groups’ access to on-campus spaces.

Additionally, Kraus would like to expand language class offerings, increase resources for the Department of Computer Science and potentially reduce distribution requirements, according to her website.

As for campus diversity, she proposed hiring more faculty of color, diversifying the Office of Admissions’ outreach and making pre-orientation programs mandatory. She also suggested creating a process of community-based budgeting for part of the university’s tuition budget, through which the university would allow for student input on financial decisions.

Kraus commented on the fact that she is the only candidate running for president.

“Those who chose not to run: I hope that’s out of trust that I would do a good job with it, and I also think honestly it’s a hard job to take on,” Kraus said. “I understand it’s not really the most attractive position to go for.”

She added that she feels confident that she would be a strong candidate even if there were others running, given that she created TCU Senate’s Two-Minute Thursday videos and has budgeted many student groups on campus.

“I feel pretty confident in [being the most qualified candidate],” she said. “I think [that’s] because I spent three years on [TCU Senate], and the leadership positions I’ve had on it have been really wide ranging in their applications.”

Current TCU President Gauri Seth said that while she would have liked to see more candidates run for the position, she does not see it as an inherent concern. She added that she appreciates Kraus’ campaign’s attempts to get students engaged with campus politics.

I wish there were more than one person running, just because I think it’s really important to have a lot of participation and democracy,” Seth, a senior, said. “I think from what I’ve seen of [Kraus‘] campaign, I really appreciate the work [she is] doing to reach out to the Tufts community.”

Seth said she understands why people would not run for the position, particularly considering the current climate on campus.

“You have to deal with a lot of challenges and that’s not always pleasant,” Seth said. “It’s also really difficult to put yourself out there in front of over 5,000 people.”

TCU Vice President Shai Slotky, who openly endorsed Kraus, pointed out that this is not the first time the election has been uncontested. In 2015, Brian Tesser was elected as TCU President in an uncontested race.

Turnout for the 2015 election was only 11.65 percent of the student body, whereas the 2016 election between Seth and Ryan Johnson saw more than double the turnout, according to 2015 and 2016 Daily articles.

“Anybody can choose to run or [choose not] to run,” Slotky, a senior, said. “Two years ago, Brian Tesser ran uncontested, and I candidly don’t think [it is a problem]. I get that there are questions to legitimacy and I think those are completely fair to be had, to say, ‘Why is only one person running?'”

Nonetheless, Slotky said that Kraus is a well-qualified candidate.

“[Kraus] is just a legitimate candidate on her own, as she would have been if she were to be contested,” Slotky said. “I don’t think that detracts any legitimacy that she has as a candidate.”