By Tavia Moore
The year 2020 has been one of unprecedented events. On Tuesday, April 7, history was made once again within the Ole Miss community. Joshua Mannery was elected to be the University of Mississippi’s 124th ASB President. Mannery is the university’s sixth African American to assume the role and the first to win an election via Facebook live.
According to official counts, Mannery received 54% of the total student vote, tallying 1,681 votes. His opponent, Anna Hall, claimed 45% of the vote with 1,405.
As Mannery reflects on the response he received from the election, he is overwhelmed with gratitude.
“Just seeing the outpour of support, kind words, and congratulations has been a lot. I have been fortunate enough to have a lot of good news like that this year. I experienced it a couple of weeks ago with being recognized as a Truman Scholarship Finalist, but this one is different because it is a community win,” said Mannery.
Although Mannery’s success was not documented outside of the legendary Lyceum or staple black walkways of Business Row, he celebrated his victory in our state’s capital of Jackson along with his family and team of campaign members via Zoom chat. After processing his emotions, Mannery recalls the internal difficulties he had with adjusting to a fully virtual campaign.
“The saddest part about everything, aside from the pandemic itself, was the fact that a lot of freshmen and seniors were going to miss out on the complete experience of campaigning. For freshmen, this was supposed to be their first time to experience an ASB campaign. They didn’t get to see the full scope of it…with walking the residence halls, visiting the Greek houses, and attending debates. And seniors didn’t get the chance to experience their last true campaign. So, I was really sad for those two groups,” said Mannery.
He said he believes shifting to social media isolated a lot of students, which reflected in the overall voter turnout.
“We only had maybe a seventh or eighth of the total student population to vote so we had to make sure we were diligent in reaching as many channels as possible,” he said. “Overall, it made us more strategic and aware. We didn’t take any vote for granted.”
Mannery explains a few initiatives that he is hoping to implement during his term as president, most of which involve the collaboration between himself and his partnering elected officials.
“I want to work closely with my fellow executive officers. I would love to put out a joint policy and work meticulously with Abby Johnston (ASB VP) and the Senate. I don’t have the specifics on what that would be, but we have definitely had those conversations,” he said.
In terms of individual things, I want to address the communication gaps by revamping the ASB social media platforms. By the end of next semester, I would love to have fully functioning and engaging social media outlets with an accompanying newsletter so that students are constantly hearing about the progress of ASB.”
Mannery said he also wants to look at what type of institutional support his team could build for underrepresented groups on campus.
“My biggest thing is bringing everybody to the table. I don’t want our overrepresented groups to feel like my focus won’t be on them because my platform is essentially about every student on campus,” he said. “But they do not need as much institutional support as they do consistent support. Whereas our underrepresented groups on campus do not have that built-in security.”
Vice President, Abby Johnston, shares her excitement for collaborating with the newly elected president. According to official counts, she garnered 97% of the vote with 2,855 total votes. She ran unopposed.
She and Mannery agree that ASB should be effective and efficient for all students. She has several ideas of how she will do her part to cultivate their vision.
“I think he and I have a lot in common in terms of our goals. We both want ASB to be effective. We want to reach out to students in ways that ASB hasn’t been able to in the past. We talked about meeting students where they are instead of having them come to ASB,” she said.
“We want ASB to be a relatable organization. We are here to serve students. That’s something that Josh and I have in common as well – servant leadership. I think that he and I will do a really good job in fostering that,” she said.
Both Mannery and Johnston push for a governing body that coexists within an inclusive and diverse environment.
“This past year we had a super diverse group of Senators and that’s something that I am really proud of,” said Johnston.
“We just added three new transfer students who have been great assets to the Senate, so I really want to see that continue. I think whenever open seat Senate elections come up, I have many things that I will consider. I’ll look around the room and think ‘who’s here and who’s not? If they’re not at the table, then how can we get them here?'” she said.
Mannery concurred saying, “As ASB President, I plan on of course seeking to grow the diversity within our organization by chipping away at inequitable barriers like communication gaps or temporary positions that prevent students from holding positions, but also, I want to work closely with students to identify what problems are at the forefront of their conversations.”
A lack of ASB representation isn’t always the most pressing concern facing some of our students; sometimes, supporting and advocating not only just on their behalf, but actually with them, means a lot more than making a position ever could. So, navigating what these issues look like for each student group is something I strongly plan on working closely with my next Director of Inclusion and Director of Campus Outreach on,” Mannery said.
Mannery and Johnston will govern the student body along with the insight of Attorney General Jake Fanning, Secretary Katelin Hayward, Treasurer Gianna Schuetz, and Judicial Chair Gabby Hunter.