All-female Student Government executive board makes history

From left are Student Government executive board members Abigail Adeleke, Amanda Rodriguez, and Shirley Gelman. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

By Ashley A. Williams

From left are Student Government executive board members Abigail Adeleke, Amanda Rodriguez, and Shirley Gelman. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

All-female Student Government executive board makes history

By Ashley A. Williams
The 2020-2021 Student Government executive board features Abigail Adeleke, president; Shirley Gelman, vice president; and Amanda Rodriguez, who is serving as treasurer.

For the first time in University of Miami history, the student body has elected three women to make up the executive board of the Student Government.

Abigail Adeleke and running mate Amanda Rodriguez, treasurer, will be joined by Shirley Gelman, vice president, who won her seat in a run-off election. On April 7, the trio was virtually sworn in during their annual inauguration ceremony.

“I was fully prepared to lose, so when I found out I won by like 13 votes, it was a ‘wow-moment’ for me,” said Adeleke, a journalism and psychology double major with a minor in Spanish. “It was not necessarily what anybody thought was going to happen, but it was definitely the best result. Because, we have the best of both worlds.”

To secure a position, candidates must receive 50 percent of the votes plus one additional vote. When one candidate does not have more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off is called. Gelman said that during her second time around, she changed the narrative of her campaign strategy because she realized the impact an all-female executive board could have. 

“I embraced it,” said Gelman, an international finance and marketing management double major. “I pushed for female empowerment and I think it’s really awesome how it ended up turning out.”

Hours of re-campaigning in the “hot Miami sun” paid off as Gelman received 58.1 percent of the votes. For the first time in 19 years, a split ticket makes up the University’s executive board.

“The whole experience was so tiring but so rewarding and worth it,” she said. 

Leading up to this, each e-board member took separate paths to their current roles. Adeleke started as the Senate of Stanford Residential College who had no prior student government experience. Gelman, on the other hand, has been involved since her first year when she joined the Freshman Leadership Council, an initiative she now oversees. For Rodriguez, this is her first position within Student Government. Although she has been heavily involved with various student organizations throughout her underclassman years, she didn’t think about joining until May 2019, when she was approached by Adeleke and her former running mate Jason Perez.

“I’ve always liked being a facilitator of events and operations—trying to see how I can run things as smoothly as possible,” said Rodriguez, a business law major in the Miami Herbert Business School. “They framed it to me as a unique position to give a unique perspective to issues on campus while also trying to bridge that gap between the people and Student Government.”

No matter their course, one fact that is constant among the newly elected team members is their commitment and dedication to representing all Miami Hurricanes.

“We are in a unique position where we talk directly with people making the decisions,” said Gelman. “I want to make students aware that if they are confused, if they need to ask anything, we are people that they should come to. Student Government is a resource for you.”

This executive board began their roles at a rare time in United States history. From the coronavirus pandemic, to remote learning, to a spark in Black Lives Matter protests around the world, Adeleke and her partners see this as a time to stand for everyone’s rights. 

“I definitely want our student body to know that their student government is diversity focused,” said Adeleke. “We have diversity training for all of our board through our new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, which is headed by United Black Students President Landon Coles.” 

Since June, the threesome has worked closely with University leadership and administration to give students the options and accommodations necessary to continue their education at the University of Miami. 

Gelman wants students to know that the University is evolving day by day, as everyone adjusts to alterations that the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated.

 “Things are going to change, because they’re going to be making improvements,” she said. “If students don’t understand how things are right now, it’s OK, because it’s going to be constantly evolving and improving.”

As the fall semester resumes, the executive board will meet weekly to continue managing policies and to work on campus-wide projects. Their goal is to continue pushing initiatives that will benefit all students.

The quickest way for a concerned student to get in contact with the new board is via email.

“I don’t mind a million people emailing me, as long as a million people’s problems are solved. I never want anyone to suffer in silence,” said Adeleke. “We are here to advocate for you.”

For more information, visit the Student Government website.