Op-Ed: Your vote matters

With this year’s elections for the Tufts Community Union coming up on Sept. 19, I look back at my own experience running for Senate for the very first time last year.

When campaigning for Senate began last fall, I was stumped. In a completely new environment, I had no platform. Student government wasn’t like it was in high school — in high school, I could promise a better football team or prom at Disney and easily get reelected. We never talked about the real issues in high school student government or even in general, since my high school was conservative, wealthy and white. Transitioning into the same type of environment at Tufts, a predominantly white (but ‘liberal’) institution, I figured things would stay the same and felt unsure about running on a platform for marginalized or first-generation college students like myself.

However, I remembered the words of my peer leaders during my pre-orientation, BEAST (Building Engagement and Access for Students at Tufts). They, along with leaders of the FIRST Center, had encouraged sophomore Carolina Olea Lezama, a fellow candidate and now best friend, and I, to use our voices to change Tufts for the better after relaying their experiences as minorities and being harassed in different ways on campus. We ran for representation.

With no surprise, my campaign was attacked almost immediately. When stating that 60% of Tufts students pay full tuition in order to portray how real the wealth gap is, I received comments from students. People claimed that, as a part of that 60%, they subsidized low-income students’ tuition and without them, we — low-income individuals — could not afford to be at Tufts. After only being at Tufts for two weeks, it felt as if all my rampant thoughts of imposter syndrome were being confirmed. To my shock, though, students of all class years and income brackets came to our defense and made me feel more supported than I had ever felt. At that point, I knew I wanted and needed to be on Senate. This is not a cry for action, but instead a lesson.

If people of all years and income classes at Tufts had not come to my defense and then used their privilege of voting, I would not be on Senate.

At Tufts, we celebrate civic engagement, whether it is voting in the midterm elections, the upcoming 2020 primary, or the Tufts Community Union (TCU) student government elections — in the form of Senate, Judiciary and the Committee on Student Life. TCU Senate has historically sparked monumental change on the Tufts campus. TCU Senate voted to fund the first ever Women’s Center, created Late Night Dining, started the Swipe it Forward meal bank and passed a resolution brought forth by United for Immigrant Justice urging the administration to increase support for students with undocumented status. While these changes do not happen without electing Senators who are committed to fighting for equity and justice, we still have a ways to go.

I urge you to look into the candidates up for election and to vote on Sept. 19. Without looking into candidates’ issues, some of this work for the most vulnerable communities would not be underway. Your vote dictates what version of Tufts we want to leave for all the generations that follow. The choice is yours.