Three candidates will be running in the Student Union’s special election for racial minority senator, which will be held today. 

This special election is taking place following the October dismissal of former racial minority senator Rajan Vohra ’21 for missing numerous Senate meetings. The seat has remained open, despite the Student Union Constitution’s mandate that special elections be held within 15 days of a seat being vacated.

Sampada Pokharel ’23 is one of the candidates running for racial minority senator. In an interview with the Justice on Thursday, Pokharel said that her experience as Secretary of GirlUp has helped prepare her for the position because of her knowledge of hosting events. Pokharel explained that she wants to run for racial minority senator to advocate for minority members of the Brandeis community, which she would do by hosting a culture festival. “I want the minority culture to be recognized, and for that I want to host events,” she said.

Along with the culture festival, Pokharel wants to host a painting event to give students a platform to express their creativity and skills, “as well as promote their culture at the same time.”

If elected, Pokharel said she promises to speak with minority students to hear about the structural changes they want to make because as their representative, she would be in a position to advocate for those changes. She said she would also present these students’ concerns to the Student Union.

Pokharel said she believes that the process of special elections “really gave me a platform to advocate for what I wanted to see” as she became more aware of changes she wanted to make throughout the course of the semester. She also said that she has no opinion on the dismissal of the previous racial minority senator.

Ishaan Kurana ’23, another candidate running for racial minority senator, said that he is running because he feels he has “a really good amount of experience working as a racial minority and doing work with racial minorities.”

Kurana said that his experience working in leadership positions with the Indian Student Association in Shanghai has helped him prepare for the racial minority senator position. Kurana also said that he has helped to “spread open-mindedness” and was the “first Indian-American to be the chief marshal of the Patriots parade” in Lexington, MA. Kurana is currently working on “improving the Dharmic Prayer Space using CEEF [Community Emergency and Enhancement Fund] funding.”

Kurana said if he were elected, he would promote “I Am Global Week,” which he only “found out about ... because a friend was involved, otherwise [he] would not [have] even known it was a thing.” He also said he wants to encourage students of every ethnicity to attend campus events, as he said he does not feel that campus events tend to be diverse.

Kurana said that he wants to work to make sure every ethnicity is represented in every club, which he would do by “working with the clubs themselves because I think they’re really good at bringing out the culture in itself and how we celebrate” and that there are generational differences in how people celebrate their cultures.

To ensure that the Student Union listens to minority students' voices, Kurana stressed that members of the Brandeis community can reach out to him to express their concerns, an idea which he said he will promote by sending emails frequently. 

Kurana said that he believes the racial minority senator special election was handled well and that “everyone’s been super professional.”

The third candidate running for the position of racial minority senator is Kurtis Lee ’22, who is running because he has “a deep interest when it comes to the question of social justice and racial justice” and because he believes that it is “incredibly important to promote intercultural discourse between people of different backgrounds.”

To achieve his goals, Lee said he would have events that would allow people to “express their ideas” and “where people would learn from each other.” Holding these events would promote social and racial justice and intercultural discourse. Lee suggested talking about issues during these events that would benefit from multiple perspectives, such as climate change and immigration.

Lee said that he would be able to fight for racial justice because he can identify issues as they arise. He also said that he believes speaking to the student body would be beneficial in identifying issues. Lee explained that if he were elected, he would reach out to the different groups on campus, encouraging them to come to him with concerns. 

Regarding the special elections, Lee said that he was “disappointed about how it was handled given the fact that the position of racial minority senator has been unfilled for a long time,” and that he believes that the “Student Union should have filled it much longer ago.”

—Emily Blumenthal contributed reporting.