The Rise slate was voted in as the new Executive Slate of Student Government (SG) with 1008 votes in UChicago’s spring 2017 general election. Rise includes of third-years Calvin Cottrell and Chase Harrison and second-year Sabine Nau. The trio brings a diverse array of experience and ambition to the positions of Executive Slate.
Calvin Cottrell, the new SG president, will bring to office an interest in policy and public service that he has fostered for many years. According to Cottrell, this interest was bolstered by learning about his family’s history.
“My extended family comes from the South Side of Chicago and rural Wisconsin, two areas that have always been hard hit because of discrimination and lack of access to resources,” Cottrell said. “I think it was hearing about the challenges and triumphs of my family which really got me interested in policy.”
Cottrell explained that he got involved in the Rise campaign in part because of some Graduate Council representatives. “I was approached by some Graduate Council representatives about the possibility of running,” Cottrell said. “After I met them and told them my potential platform I saw there could be strong graduate student support for my positions.”
When putting together the Rise slate, Cottrell searched for people he respected and with whom he believed he would enjoy working. Nau stood out to Cottrell as a “highly respected” member of Model UN and a “great campaigner and communicator.”
Harrison also caught Cottrell’s eye, partly because of his work as the head sponsor of the Freedom of Expression letter to President Zimmer. Cottrell said of Harrison, “His combination of policy seriousness and humor made him a no-brainer for the ticket.”
Last year, Cottrell was a College Council (CC) representative for the class of 2018.
As a CC representative, he opposed the CC vote on Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS), the movement for divestment from 10 Israeli companies which, according to some student groups, were complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine. In the end, the University decided to not divest from the companies, citing the Kalven report, but CC voted on the resolution.
“I think that we voted on something that no one on this Council ever ran on voting on, and I think we voted on something that is truly out of our scale,” Cottrell said to The Maroon after his vote last year.
Cottrell also walked out of a meeting as a CC reprsentative last June, along with Class of 2016 representative Mike Viola, to prevent the General Assembly from reaching quorum to vote on a proposal to pay SG. Cottrell said of the meeting: “I think lots of us felt that this meeting, whether it was the time or the fact that certain members couldn’t be involved, was inappropriate.”
As SG president, Cottrell aims to have a positive impact on the UChicago student body, especially in the area of mental health. “I promise that mental health would be a focus of my administration,” Cottrell said. “As a former CC representative and through my work at the Center for Identity and Inclusion I understand the layout of the administration well. I am excited to hit the ground running by having meetings over the summer.”
In the end, Cottrell said that interaction with other students is what he is most looking forward to. “Being Student Government president puts you at the middle of so many events and communities on campus,” he said. “I think having the ability to connect students and foster partnerships is what excites me most.”
Joining Cottrell is third-year Chase Harrison. Harrison served on SG this year as a class representative. He is a transfer student from Sarah Lawrence College, where he was also a member of student government.
At Sarah Lawrence, Harrison served as a liaison between the student committee and an administrator; he commented that he enjoyed “having her ear.” Due to his experience, Harrison felt that running for SG at UChicago was a “natural step” particularly inspired by the institutional barriers faced by transfer students.
Harrison attended Sarah Lawrence his first year to stay close to home while he served on his town’s school board, making him the youngest elected official in New Jersey history.
“I was a prolific debater in high school, that was my big activity, and so I think it got me very interested in the concept of public service and in the art of public speaking and communication,” Harrison said. He explained that this all culminated in him running for his town’s school board where he gained experience managing a $90 million budget and representing the interests of fellow students—which is why he feels particularly well equipped to serve on the Executive Slate.
Serving as a Class of 2018 representative this year, Harrison was proud to vote against the budget, unhappy with the way funds were allocated. He also signed immigration legislation written by Class of 2020 representative Jahne Brown and tampon legislation spearheaded by Class of 2020 representative Sat Gupta.
Just last week, Harrison said, SG members met with Dean Jay Ellison and Dean Michele Rasmussen to discuss disciplinary policy for student protests.
“None of us were interested in challenging the principle that anyone should be able to speak on campus but there were notions of security concerns, of what kind of resources are available for counter-protests, how does the free speech policy mesh with the disciplinary policy,” Harrison said. “[Rasmussen and Ellison] said that Zimmer, though he’s busy for the rest of the quarter, is going to commit to doing a really big public event in the fall [related to these concerns].”
Looking to the future, Harrison emphasized the importance of communication.
“We’ve basically heard nothing from the Executive Slate this year until they released their budget just days before we had to vote on it,” he said. Harrison believes that this lack of communication between SG and the student body could be why fewer people are running for SG offices and why there were not more applications for things like the Uncommon Fund.
He expressed disappointment that the past slate did not make full use of social media and the ability to e-mail the entire student body during their term.
“I think we just intend on being more of a presence both on campus and online, which won’t be that difficult, I think, because all of us run in a lot of circles,” he said.
Cottrell approached Harrison about joining Rise at the beginning of winter quarter following the frustration of graduate students at how the current slate at the time was handling unionization.
“Calvin and I met a few times, we realized that we shared a lot of the same ideas, same disappointment in the way that SG has been operated, and similar experiences as representatives,” Harrison recalled. “So we decided that we were going to run and then we wanted someone that hadn’t been on SG but was well connected on campus, and Sabine was the perfect candidate.”
Sabine Nau is a second-year from Virginia. While she is new to SG at UChicago, she is involved in a number of other campus organizations and had student government experience in high school.
“[Cottrell and Harrison] said they had been approached by a couple of graduate institutions encouraging them to run and they were looking for a third person to complete their ticket,” she said. “They had heard from a few different people that I might be a good choice, so they just wanted to hear my take on it—if I was interested in it.”
During high school, Nau was the class representative both her junior and senior year. Thinking back to what she learned, Nau emphasized the importance of working with committees and many moving parts—something she anticipates being prepared for in her upcoming term. She noted the gravity of her new position but was confident in her capabilities.
“You do have to manage a budget that’s over $2 million. It’s very important that graduate students get the money they’re putting in and undergrads get the money they’re putting in and [that you are] making sure that it’s allocated to the places it ought to go,” she said. “I definitely was a bit concerned that maybe not doing student government so far in college would be an issue. But I definitely think that it’s more of a strength because I’m kind of approaching it with a new take.”
Like Harrison, Nau emphasized the importance of transparency and communication in the upcoming year. She also explained that, while she understood why the decision was made, her slate would try to re-work the budget in order to allow the Uncommon Fund to remain on campus.
The new Executive Slate comes from a variety of places on campus, Nau said. “I think that that’s one of the strengths of our slate—we all have really different perspectives whether it be me working in the admissions office or doing Model UN and then Chase being involved in Hillel, and Calvin in the Center for Identity and Inclusion. We bring a lot of different perspectives that I think are pretty important to have.”