Student Union President Peyton Gillespie ’25 is just getting started

Gillespie '25 spoke with BrandeisNow about his goals as president, hopes for the year, and advice for people interested in student government.

Peyton sits in chair

In an election sent to the entire student body in the spring of 2022, Peyton Gillespie ’25 won the vote for Student Union president. He didn’t waste any time before making an impact on campus.

Gillespie, a politics and international global studies major, has always had a passion for leadership. Growing up in Hawaii he served as the vice president of the Maui District Student Council Organization, a student-run group that facilitated communication between the 45 public, chartered, and private high schools in Maui County.

He was drawn to Brandeis University because of its small campus community, Jewish values, and opportunities for social activism. Gillespie spoke with BrandeisNow about his goals as president, hopes for the year, and advice for people interested in student government. 

Are there any initiatives you’re leading that you are most excited about?

We are leading a lot of changes on campus. One of the initiatives I am most passionate about, as it was the number one policy we focused our campaign on, is improving menstrual equity on campus. Our goal is to have more buildings on campus providing free menstrual products.

We recently sent a survey to the student body, asking people to share locations on campus that lacked menstrual products. Savannah Jackson ’22 compiled a 29-page report from the several hundred responses we received. This data outlined the need for free, accessible products on campus.

Our first step is to distribute money from the Community Enhancement Emergency Fund to pilot this initiative, starting with free dispensers in the first-year halls. This will act as a proof of concept to the University that free menstrual products should be implemented in all high traffic buildings on campus. We’ve already started conversations with campus administrators to learn more about the next steps in moving this project forward. We’ve received a positive response, so we’re excited to move forward on this project.

What are a few important challenges for you?

In addition to focusing on menstrual equity, equity in diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and accessibility on campus, we have also added three new positions to address specific major issues.

Hannah Miller ’25 is our new director of accessibility, working as a liaison between Student Accessibility Support and the student body to improve the accessibility on campus.

Monica Apointe ’23 is our new director of sexual assault awareness on campus. We created this position because we believe this is a national health crisis that is prevalent on every campus. We’re trying to spread awareness and provide students with resources.

Finally, we appointed Sophia Reiss '23 to our additional new position, in-house counsel. Our constitution and bylaws are not perfect and have flaws. I am not a fan of saying, “this is how we have always done this.” We’ve created this position to improve our procedures, create new amendments, and to prevent time consuming issues.

How would you describe the team atmosphere among the student union branches?

We have four other branches of the Student Union that people can get involved with: the senate, judiciary, treasury, and allocations Board. When you’re in a room with 15 to 20 people debating major issues it can become tense. We haven’t had that happen because we’re working with lighthearted people who are willing to have difficult conversations. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, which provides a well rounded perspective.

We’re lucky to have such great people in every branch of our student government.

How do you manage expectations from the student body?

We’re working diligently to maintain accountability and transparency with the student body. In addition to following up with all emails and personal requests, we will be implementing town hall discussions starting with our first one on October 20th at 7:30pm in the SCC Multipurpose Room.

We want to share what we are working on and provide a space for students to ask questions. We will also be inviting administrators to speak. Being face to face just provides a different experience than email. We want to be warm and inviting, as it is our job to connect with students in a meaningful way.

What advice would you give to a student looking to get involved with student government?

I would firstly say that not it’s not just politics majors and those interested in working in the government that get involved. The student government is formed of people who are interested in making a difference on campus and want to make Brandeis feel like home. It’s important to have people who are working to improve life on campus. It will never be perfect, nor will any school, but we can put our best efforts towards making college life more equitable.

If any of that is interesting, then I highly recommend getting involved in any of the five branches of the student union. There are so many ways to be in the room where it happens. We have room for everyone in the community across all majors, backgrounds, and ideologies.

Categories: General, Student Life

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