October 15, 2002

Students vote for representatives

A record number of undergraduates chose to cast ballots in this year's College Council election, held October 9-11, a 25 percent increase in voter turnout from last year according to Student Government president Enrique Gómez. Though the total turnout was higher, the 621 individuals who chose to vote represents a mere quarter of all undergraduates in the College.

This year's council race was most competitive among the first-year class, in which 11 candidates ran for four positions. The race was won by a group of four students, Katie Foss, Robert Hubbard, Kate Oppenheim, and Vivek Viswanathan who ran as an informal ticket.

"I think we won because we got the word out. It was hard to go anywhere on campus and not see one of our flyers," said first-year Kate Oppenheim, who was elected to the council.

The four candidates, who collectively spent about $200 on their campaign, canvassed the Max Palevsky dormitory, soliciting votes. "We talked to just about everyone," Oppenheim said.

Although election bylaws state that students are not allowed to run as an official ticket and candidates must be elected individually, Gómez said that Student Government (SG) neither encourages nor discourages students from running as a group.

Some first-years who voted were dismayed at the absence of a forum for candidates. "I really think there should have been speeches and a blurb about each candidate on the voting Web site," said Elizabeth Warngard, a first-year in the College.

Amy Steelman a first-year in the College who was a candidate in the election was of the same accord. "I would have liked to have had a way to get my message out," she said.

Second-year Cameron Downing, who was elected to the council, attributed his success to getting the word out to vote. "Mostly I stressed to my classmates and friends the need to vote. Turnout in these elections is usually rather low," Downing said.

Third- and fourth-years in the College continued a write-in trend, each electing at least one candidate who was not on the ballot. "I sent out an e-mail to about 15 or 20 of my friends," third-year electee Erin Onsager said.

Similarly elected were fourth-years Keith Voogd and Jon Westring. "Over the past few years we've observed a pattern among the third- and fourth-year students to have their friends and classmates write-in votes instead of go through the ballot process," Gómez said.

Over the weekend, the newly-elected council members signed up to serve on committees, which deal with funding for activities, academic issues, and College programming. The new council members also pledged to act on several contentious issues that had arisen since the beginning of the academic year.

"In my opinion, the new [printing] policy is ridiculous and unfair. Tuition is already expensive enough without requiring us to pay for more course materials," said third-year electee Noeline Arulgnanendran.

Other council members had similar feelings about the policy change. "I strongly disagree with the new policy of charging for printing in the dorms," said first-year council member Katie Foss who will be serving on an SG focus group on the subject. "I'm definitely opposed to it. Especially because there was no forewarning, and nobody talked to the students to ask our opinions," she said.

Printing is not the only controversial issue. The administration's decision to close down the Reynolds Club at midnight Sunday through Thursday instead of 2 a.m. has also been a subject of discussion among new council members.

"Uncle Joe's Second Floor Coffee Shop is one of the great hangouts on campus. They are being forced to close early. It's really a shame," Downing said.

Arulgnanendran concurred. "It seems like a really bad idea. It's such a great place to hang out and study, especially during finals," she said.

Gómez urges students to become more involved in campus decision-making. "The student government is here to respond to the students," he said. "If students say that they want us to be involved, we'll be involved. It all depends on the student body," Gómez said.