Name: Rishi Solanki
Major: Electrical Engineering
Running for: Vice President of Student Life
Relevant experience: Prior to running for VP of Student Life for Undergraduate Student Government (USG), I have spent the last two years as an Elected House Representative to the CWRU Residence Hall Association (RHA). There, I have been a passionate voice for advocacy and cosponsorship initiatives to improve student life. Sophomore year, I also sat on the joint USG-RHA food committee, where we worked to expand options in the dining halls, the portable meal swipe program, and carve out exceptions for cultural groups to hold events in Tinkham Veale University Center without catering from Bon Appetit. I have also served on the executive boards of various other groups on campus.
What are your plans for this position?
I think what sets me apart from the other two candidates is the outsider perspective I bring to USG, being the only candidate whose entire advocacy experience was not solely developed within the confines of USG. Having spent the last two years in RHA, I think I’m the candidate that can bring some much-needed change to the culture of USG. The Vice President of Student Life oversees the Student Life Committee, and so this position is about two things that are very close to my heart: leadership and advocacy. In the debates, we heard about how USG has had some issues in the past with people (both from inside and outside the organization) not feeling comfortable speaking out during General Assembly meetings, and representatives not fully following through on their advocacy initiatives. I think something I would want to bring to this position in terms of leadership style would be to bring a culture of radical nonjudgmental listening that I really appreciated from RHA, to cultivate an environment where people feel accepted for the views they hold and where students from both inside and outside the organization feel encouraged to make their voices heard to make Case Western Reserve University the best institution it can be. In terms of executing advocacy initiatives, I think something I would bring to this position from my time in RHA would be my “servant leadership” management style when ensuring that reps are fully executing on their initiatives. In my experience heading up initiatives I successfully implemented in RHA, people work best when you work with them to develop a clear timeline, check in periodically, and work to learn from them what resources you can give them to succeed, while ensuring all targets are met.
In terms of specific initiatives, under transportation, I want to finesse the prediction system for the Greenies to make them as reliable as possible and improve signage for routes as stops change throughout the day. I want to work to put in place an escort system for a bus stop near Kelvin Smith Library (KSL) while the KSL Oval stop is out of commission. Under safety and security, I want to work to improve SafeRide service at peak times by finding a way for the university to partner with ridesharing services during those times. These are my top two priorities for the upcoming semester, but other issues like improving alumni connections, school spirit, improving access to facilities, and improving food options are issues I look forward to looking into as well. Ultimately though, my philosophy on advocacy revolves not around working to give you what I think you, my constituents, want, but rather listening to what you, my constituents want, and adopting and prioritizing my initiatives based on that.
What is one initiative that you want to complete in your first semester?
I think the top initiative I would want to focus on my first semester is really improving the predictions on the Greenies and signage for stops when routes change. I put it first because it’s not a particularly difficult fix, but I think it just requires a commitment to details. Greenies make up a vital part of our campus infrastructure, and anyone who has ever been stranded or late to class because of the sometimes incorrect predictions can understand how frustrating it can be when it doesn’t work.
How will you work with the President of USG to move forward with making CWRU a sanctuary campus?
I think the resolution passed this semester gives some excellent concrete steps on how we can proceed. I personally would work with the President of USG to get some thoughts on what steps outlined in the resolution we should prioritize for implementation (ie: free legal immigration advice and housing for international students who may not be able to go home due to any future immigration bans), and in some cases would reach out to the parts of the student body affected about how they would like to see them implemented. I would also prepare for meetings with administrators by working with the President of USG to get their perspective on what the administration’s constraints might be and how best to maneuver within them to successfully implement the initiatives outlined in the resolution.
How safe do you think the CWRU campus is and what areas of improvement do you see?
I think the CWRU campus is mostly safe, but there are definitely areas and times of night where I feel weary about walking around. I think getting the blue light system on campus fully operational again is an excellent improvement. It has also really helped that the app for the Greenies has gone from completely unusable my freshman year to only sometimes inaccurate or confusing this year.
How can campus transportation be improved?
Under transportation, I want to finesse the prediction system for the greenies to make them as reliable as possible and improve signage for routes as stops change throughout the day. I also want to work to put in place an escort system for a bus stop near KSL while the KSL Oval stop is out of commission. I think working to improve SafeRide service at peak times by finding a way for the university to partner with ridesharing services during those times is also key.