When Gracie Babatola, the only sophomore Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) presidential candidate and the only one without ASI experience, heard her name called as the newly elected 2022-23 ASI president, she was shocked.
“I genuinely was very surprised,” Babatola said. “I looked around to see if other people heard … It was surreal.”
When Babatola was announced as the winner of the 2022-23 ASI presidential election on April 21 in the University Union Plaza, she jumped up, hugging her friends and laughing as dozens of supporters and fellow students applauded.
Babatola amassed 1,193 initial votes out of the 2,901 ballots cast, according to an ASI news release. After an instant runoff process – an elimination voting method ensuring that the winning candidate receives at least 50% support – she finished with 1,863 votes.
Babatola, who was endorsed by San Luis Obispo Mayor Erica Stewart before the election, campaigned on the platform of “rebuilding connections” between the student body, student organizations and ASI.
“This was not just a catchy statement or lifeless promise,” architecture senior Chloe Wardrick, Babatola’s campaign manager, said. “This platform was bolstered by Gracie’s complementary goals as well as her dedication to talk and share her campaign with many clubs and entities on campus.”
Babatola canvassed the university and local businesses and restaurants, taking the time to have conversations with individual students.
“People could see I was putting the time and effort into what I was doing,” Babatola said. “I wasn’t speaking out of some rehearsed talking point. I was speaking from what I truly believe I want to actually accomplish.”
She also had individual conversations with students — such as talking with her cashier at Campus Market — which she said helped her relate more to the campus community.
“Apart from just talking to large groups, it is even more important to have those one-on-one discussions with anyone I met,” Babatola said.
Babatola has served on the board of the Black Student Union (BSU) for the past two years along with Wardrick, who is the president of BSU. Wardrick said she is confident in Babatola’s ability to lead students.
“Gracie’s student-first advocacy will be an effective way in which she will better relate to the student voice she is serving,” Wardrick said. “This is something that we have not seen in an ASI President in quite some time.”
She said she believes Babatola will help strengthen the role of the ASI president as a student advocate.
“Gracie is a committed individual,” Wardrick said. “Students will finally be given the transparent, caring and thoughtful leadership that they deserve. A good population of Cal Poly’s community will know Gracie next year as she begins to ‘rebuild connections.’”
Babatola was the only sophomore running for ASI President as an official candidate and the only one without previous ASI experience — something she highlighted in her campaign as what set her apart.
However, she praised her competitors after the election and promised to work with them to create multi-faceted approaches to problems at Cal Poly.
“I am one person and can’t understand the perspective of all students at once,” Babatola said. “Each of [my opponents] brings such a unique perspective and outlook on life, ASI and as students in general that I will definitely be able to utilize.”
Now that the election results have been ratified by the current Board of Directors, Babatola will start searching for a chief of staff to help her put together the 2022-23 ASI Executive Cabinet.
Babatola said she plans to keep students updated on meetings she attends and how she spends her day in order to provide more transparency to the campus community.
“If people know what I am doing and how I’m spending my time, what I’m doing with my day, my peers are also able to keep me accountable,” Babatola said.
She posted a video to her personal Instagram account on the afternoon of April 21, thanking her supporters for voting, asking her questions and listening to her.
“I truly could not and would not have been able to have done it without your help,” Babatola said. “I’m so excited to start rebuilding those connections.”
The 2022-23 ASI Board of Directors was also announced on April 21. For full election results, visit the ASI website.