Peniamina “Ben” Tai’i is an Administration of Justice (AJ) transfer student attending University of Hawai’i at Hilo (UH Hilo). He transferred from American Samoa Community College in Fall 2015 and participated in the Pacific Islander Summer Bridge Program. He recently ran for the UH Hilo Student Association (UHHSA) as a Senator-At-Large in UHHSA’s Special Election held from Monday, May 2 to Wednesday, May 4.
The results came in: https://www3.uhh.hawaii.edu/elections/results.php?election=7.
In the previous Spring 2016 Election (https://www3.uhh.hawaii.edu/elections/results.php?election=6), Axel Defngin and Vester “Boomer” Robester of Wa’ab Student Organization and Pacific Students Media won two Senator-At-Large seats.
Ben came in an extremely close third place, requiring only 20 more votes. If he had more time to run, received more active Pacific Islander student voters, or ran for College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) Senator he would have won either race.
My time spent volunteering for UHHSA during Oh Hell Week was a humbling experience that gave me the opportunity to connect with the student body of UH Hilo as they ready themselves for their finals. I wanted to run for Senator-at-Large for UHHSA because I saw that students generally didn’t care much for the school and its policies unless it affected them directly. While this may be attributed to students viewing themselves as merely passing through the institution, I wanted to stress the fact that their voice does matter if I had won one of the two seats that were up for the special election. With 86 votes for the special election I wasn’t able to secure one of the two senate seats available, however I still chose to volunteer for the final day of Oh Hell Week as the experience itself was enriching. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation and fa’afetai (thanks) to all that voted and supported me throughout the election, I may not have won, but with all the support and encouragements I received while running–I honestly can’t help walking away feeling like a victor. Special thanks to the Tupulaga o Samoa mo a Taeao (TOS) club, the Pacific Islander Student Center (PISC), and Axel Defngin (UHHSA Senator-at-Large) for the unwavering support, Fa’afetai tele lava.
– Ben Tai’i
Ben’s results are promising as he received so many votes in such little time to prepare because of the short notice of the Special Election. His commitment to volunteering serving food at Campus Center Plaza for UHHSA during all of Oh Hell Week is also commendable. He will definitely be a tough contender next year around.
All students, especially Pacific Islander students, are encouraged to engage in their student government because they–you–can make a difference together.