TCU President-elect Jaden Pena talks diversity, mental health

TCU President-elect Jaden Pena is pictured. Courtesy Jaden Pena
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Jaden Pena was elected as the next president of the Tufts Community Union on April 27. He will serve as TCU president for the 2022–23 academic year.

Students cast their ballots between noon on April 26 and noon on April 27, and election results were announced shortly after the final votes were submitted.

According to the Elections Commission’s Instagram, Pena won 58% of the votes cast, while the other two candidates — Enrique Rodriguez and Max Morningstar — won 23% and 13% of the votes, respectively. A total of 2,024 votes were cast, denoting a voter turnout of  31.09%, a slight decrease from last year’s turnout rate of 33.96%.

Two referendums also passed in the election. The first will allow the TCU Senate to efficiently add more community senator seats in the future, while the second created the Indigenous community senator position.

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The rest of the Senate executive board positions — vice president, treasurer, diversity officer, parliamentarian and historian — were filled by internal elections on Sunday, May 1. 

Class of 2024 Senator Arielle Galinsky, who served as Services Committee chair this past year, was elected vice president for the 2022–23 academic year. Sophomores may remember Galinsky as the lead organizer of April’s Class of 2024 Prom.

Class of 2023 Senator and former Associate Treasurer Jalen Little was elected treasurer and former Women’s Community Senator Krystal Mutebi was elected diversity officer. Junior Julie Baik was elected historian.

The 2021–22 academic year was Pena’s first full year on the Senate. He served as diversity officer, which meant chairing the Community and Diversity Committee. Outside of the Senate, Pena sings with the Tufts Beelzebubs, plays on the football team — for which he is one of the Green Dot representatives — and is a member of the Tufts Black Men’s Group.

Pena reflected on his time as diversity officer and says he hopes to use the experiences he gained in that role to better inform his decisions as TCU president.

“I hope to work extremely closely with the diversity officer next year to continue some of the work that I was doing,” Pena said. “Some examples are working on the Tufts as an Anti-Racist Institution initiative and reallocating those funds so that they support our identity centers and … the athletics department, the health services and CMHS department and the School of Engineering to recruit and hire more BIPOC and LGBTQ+ faculty and staff.”

Pena envisions a Tufts community whose commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion extends beyond its campus.

“I want to work with admissions to send Tufts representatives to more socioeconomically diverse high schools across the country, and not just the ones that they’re being sent to now,” Pena said. 

During his campaign, Pena committed to uplifting underrepresented voices and advocating for student mental health, a topic that was of central focus in the last couple Senate meetings of the semester.

“The construction of an entire Wellness Center is a tall task, but it’s something that I’ve been working on for … two years now, even before I was on Senate,” Pena said. “Something that I really want to prioritize in my term as president is pushing administration to really, really focus on the betterment of students’ mental health.”

Pena expressed his gratitude for the support he received during the campaign process. 

“I’m just very grateful and very appreciative of everyone that supported my campaign and everyone that came to the events and everyone in the communities that I’m closest with,” Pena said. “I’m just very appreciative of everything that they did, and … all the unconditional love and support that they gave me.”

Now that campaigning is over, Pena is excited to step into the role of president.

“I am most excited to work with such a diverse, talented and passionate group of senators,” Pena said, referencing the fact that the majority of current TCU senators are people of color. “We have some people returning, and we have a lot of new faces on Senate, which is super exciting as well. Every time new thoughts, ideas and perspectives are brought to Senate, it creates a new opportunity for us to better serve more students.”

Pena hopes to make TCU Senate a more accessible student organization that is better connected with the student body.

“I think the TCU president should be someone that every single person on campus — no matter if they’re a first-year or a senior in their last week of classes — feels comfortable going to them and saying anything or addressing anything they feel needs to be addressed,” Pena said. “I think trying to be the most accessible person on campus should always be a huge goal for the president, and that’s what I want to bring to the role. I want to be the person that people feel comfortable coming to [and] talking about anything.”

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