In last Friday’s editorial, “Early moves by Rotnofsky, Mandalapu don’t quite shake things up,” the Daily Texan editorial board wrote that new student body president Xavier Rotnofsky and vice president Rohit Mandalapu, disappointingly “just simply seem like more of the same.” Any true engagement with Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s first few weeks in office immediately dispel this misconception.
The editorial claimed that Rotnofsky and Mandalapu “pledged to shake up Student Government” simply as an extension of entering office. At no time have Rotnofsky and Mandalapu represented themselves as anything other than two students — to use their words, “very good boys” — who thought they could bring some fresh ideas to the table.
Further, at their own admission, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu never thought they would actually get elected; they ran a humorous yet poignant satirical campaign in order to bring to light serious issues on campus and in SG. In doing so, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu captured the voice and spirit of campus and indeed were swept into office, not as the masquerading revolutionaries the editorial board painted them as but as two students that gained the confidence and trust of their peers against decades of precedent.
The editorial was wrong about Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s perceived failures, which were considered far too narrowly to be taken seriously.
Rotnofsky and Mandalapu smartly chose not to take a stance on AR 3, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) resolution. The debate devolved into hideous name-calling, character attacks and accusations of bigotry from both sides by the time it was voted on. By refraining from getting involved, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu protected their ability to serve as unifiers and representatives for the whole student body, not just one part of it.
Next, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s picks for their executive council are not the red flag that the editorial board perceived them to be. Rotnofsky and Mandalapu took a number of factors into account when appointing the executive board. To say that the new executive board does not represent a wide range of interests solely based on a shared major is absurd. Opportunities for involvement in the new administration did not end with the executive board appointments either, as there were dozens of internal and external appointments to apply for as well.
Finally, though their current platform is admittedly rather underwhelming, it will develop as student needs and campus opportunities do, as Mandalapu told the Texan when they went public with their platform.
In an interview conducted with Rotnofsky over the weekend, he told me that he and Mandalapu are actively seeking to make good on the faith that students have invested in them since the election.
First, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu have been invited to join the campus sexual assault task force by the Chief Compliance Officer. According to Rotnofsky, they are the first students to serve on the task force and are advocating for the appointment of a female student. Rotnofsky also said they hope to work with Not On My Campus to create a program similar to Alcohol MyEdu to educate students on sexual assaults on campus during summer orientations.
Rotnofsky said they are also developing a strategy for the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue. Although the resolution to remove the statue was passed, Rotnofsky said he and Mandalapu plan to approach the issue institutionally once they make all administrative introductions.
Rotnofsky said they have also met with the Division of Housing and Food Service about creating more kosher and halal options and expanding dining hours.
Finally, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu have maintained the comedic flair that set them apart from the rest in the election with the recent development of a student Chili’s coupon and a comedic interview with President William Powers Jr. that is expected to go online this week.
In conclusion, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu are doing much more than last week’s editorial give them credit for. They are engaging with the issues that they now have a platform to combat, seeking promising solutions and restoring campus faith in SG at the same time. To quote my colleagues at the Texan, they are hardly “more of the same.”
Smith is a history and humanities junior from Austin. Follow Smith on Twitter @claireseysmith.