Updated: Apr 20
Third-years Parul Kumar, Murphy DePompei, and Natalie Wang expressed their commitments to advocating for marginalized students in Student Government in their bid for Executive Slate.
On April 18, Executive Slate candidates Parul Kumar, Murphy DePompei, and Natalie Wang held an evening Zoom meeting to encourage students of marginalized identities to run for Student Government (SG) offices. In Kumar’s words, “the main goal of the event was to encourage marginalized [people] to run for positions in SG and otherwise and hopefully foster a sense of community. [We want] to make [these] big moves feel a [little] less scary and more exciting, knowing you have ppl who support you and want to continue to support even after elections!”
The trio mediated a casual discussion, frankly talking through their decisions to run for SG. Despite their initially uneasy perceptions of Student Government, all three shared a dedication to caring for and supporting the student body, which ultimately informed their decision to run.
Their initial unease about running for SG was primarily due to long-standing negative perceptions of the culture within SG. Wang, who currently sits on the Executive Committee as Community and Government Liaison, recalled a vivid memory from her matriculation into the University: “When I first got to UChicago, I said I would never run for SG because I [thought it would be] a popularity contest.”
Kumar, who is the current co-Chair of Communications, expressed similar initial concerns: “SG was very intimidating to me in my first two years [at the University]. ‘Resume culture’ [seemed commonplace in SG] and it scared me away from running.” In DePompei’s eyes, SG seemed “very male-dominated and ineffective.”
The idea to run for Executive Slate came with the trio’s commitments to and excitement for doing good for all members of the student body, especially for those of marginalized identities. Kumar, drawing on her story as a sexual assault survivor, said, “What made me run was the specific parts of my identity that I want to see SG advocate for more. [When] you have that consideration of what the current conditions of your school mean for your identity, I think that pushes you to advocate to see more of the support that you and others like you would have wanted.”
Wang, who has ADHD, echoed similar motivations. Her experiences with ADHD inspired her to “advocate for disabled students, especially in terms of making Student Disability Services more manageable to those with disabilities.”
However, Thrive Slate’s optimism does not eliminate their fears about becoming the new leaders of SG. Kumar, Wang, and DePompei all expressed their concerns about the public perception of themselves, especially given past tendencies of student social platforms (e.g., UChicago Secrets) to publish harmful posts about SG representatives.
“Publicity is one of my worst fears, so [all of my SG work] has been some really weird exposure therapy,” laughed Wang. DePompei equally admitted that she was “deeply afraid of [UChicago Secrets],” as did Kumar.
Fears of campus publicity notwithstanding, in light of recent accomplishments of SG members, the Thrive Slate demonstrated an eagerness to continue the momentum of creating a supportive environment for the entire student body. “I want to be accountable for the things I’ve done, but I’m also confident in my ability to do and be good,” Kumar said, while Wang and DePompei nodded in agreement. “When you’re running for a position with such public perception, everything wrong you’ve done runs through your head. But I think the important thing is growth— everyone changes in college, and you should be able to change.”
Looking ahead to a future in SG, the Thrive Slate contemplated specific changes to be made on campus. Kumar revealed plans to “work with The Emergency Fund to establish a fund specific for survivors of sexual violence,” creating a direct line of support from SG. She also discussed plans for “reconnection events” with the student body. “SG does important work, but it’s very insular and I want to show people that I care and be present on the campus,” she added. Wang shared plans to extend SCS hours into the weekend (by appointment), while DePompei beamed about establishing student advocacy offices and listening to students during SG office hours.
In terms of long-term change, Thrive seems committed to changing the overall culture in SG. Wang expressed aspirations to “transform the culture of SG itself, and make it more meaningful than corporate diversity training.” Speaking on her past dissatisfaction with SG, DePompei further noted, “I saw a lot that needed change as someone not in [SG] and I wanted to do something about it. I care deeply about the issues on this campus, and I asked, ‘Why should someone else run when I know I could?’”
“Diversity in SG means more than just different faces, different forms of marginalization inform different perspectives that are valuable to student government,” Kumar added. “Our policy and platform are rooted in love and support, and we’re excited to create a culture that cares for everyone.”
Exploring Race formally endorses the Thrive Slate for Executive Slate. To read more about Thrive’s policies or the individual members themselves, visit their website.