Banjo Jones Elected Freshmen Class President

photo by Anna Beth Corson

photo by Anna Beth Corson

After two days of voting, the freshman class of 2022 chose Benjamin “Banjo” Jones as their president. His victory on Thursday, September 27 came at the end of an eventful campaign season which saw candidates appeal to fellow Covenant freshmen through Instagram accounts, posters, and even an endorsement from a local business. These other presidential candidates—Tyler Kelly, Nathaniel Kumar, Edoardo Santi, and Benaiah Woodrow—made it an intriguing and close race.

Kelly was the first to kickstart his campaign, creating a presidential Instagram account several weeks before the election. Kelly’s first move was to shave his head in a Napoleon Dynamite-themed video, with the hopes of convincing voters that he means what he says. Kelly also managed to snag an endorsement from local Tex-Mex restaurant Mojo Burrito, which grabbed the attention of voters.

Around this time, Jones decided to jump into the social media market with his own Instagram account, announcing his campaign with a video showing that Banjo can, in fact, play the banjo. At the same time, posters began popping up all over campus bulletin boards showing Jones astride an elephant. Jone’s use of memes was instrumental in getting his name out there and establishing a fun image. Those posters were balanced out with a more professional-looking poster—released days before the election—in the hopes that he would strike a balance between humor and seriousness.

Posters for Woodrow’s candidacy began appearing shortly after Jones’s. Woodrow also created an Instagram account, where he posted a video featuring him behind a desk in the Maclellan Hall elevator. Beyond that, Woodrow often went from table to table in the Great Hall to make connections with his fellow classmates.

Kumar, by comparison, spent less time campaigning, only putting up one poster before the debate. But what he lacked in variety, he made up for with widespread distribution of his posters. “Be a star, vote for Kumar” greeted students all over campus—outside Chapel, the Great Hall, and more.

What was already a crowded race became even more populated when several days before the election, Santi rejoined the fray. Santi, who had received the prerequisite 60 signatures needed to secure a presidential bid, had initially dropped out of the running. Then, right when the race was settling into its home stretch, Santi threw a last-minute curveball by jumping back into the race. He spread the word via social media and posters in an impressively short time span.

It was against this backdrop that the debate took place. On the night of Tuesday September 25, the candidates and a crowd of around 40 students gathered in Mills 270/280. Each candidate was given chances to address voters with an opening and closing statement, as well as several randomly distributed questions.

Everyone had highlights. Jones again balanced fun with seriousness; an answer describing his desire for a fondue pot in the Great Hall was followed by an authentic plea to demonstrate meekness in serving the freshman class. Kelly brought up innovative points such as a desire for more freshman to serve in leadership positions. Woodrow suggested the president’s phone number should always be available. Kumar shared about his community-fueled decision to give up a full ride to University of Virginia to come to Covenant. Santi talked about his journey from Italy to here, and how he had to make a risky but decisive choice to make it happen.

At the end of election day on September 26, the votes were tallied and no candidate had won outright. Victory in this election would have required a simple majority (over 50 percent of the vote), but with the crowded field of five candidates, this was unlikely.

In accordance with the election rules, the top two candidates—Jones and Woodrow—moved on to a runoff election the following day, which finally brought this election season to a close. In this runoff it was Jones who emerged victorious, with the news broken to the freshman class at 6:55 p.m.—over an hour before polls were originally supposed to close.