October 14, 2011

Election Connection

Newly elected first-years should keep College Council transparent, focused on small, significant issues.

With a record number of candidates spurring an unusual amount of attention, this College Council (CC) election cycle has been steeped with enthusiasm, to say the least. 20 candidates ran to serve as first-year representatives, chalking up sidewalks all over campus and hosting events to rally support. There were vague promises, unusual campaign platforms, and disturbing fliers. Even the celebrations seemed to be more lively than usual: Last night, dozens showed up to the C-Shop to hear the announcement and congratulate the four first-year representatives.

Although we’d also like to extend our best wishes, we offer them with reservations. In years past, CC has played the role of court jester, with students often regarding it in an unflattering light. This perception was punctuated when third- and fourth-year representatives resigned en masse in 2009 and CC could hardly find anyone willing to replace them. During the elections last spring, there were only four candidates each on the ballots for the third- and fourth-year seats, meaning that anyone who submitted an application to run was practically guaranteed to get elected. With council members assuming their seats by default, the representative nature of the positions was seriously undermined. CC has failed miserably in serving as an envoy for the student body, and some of the decisions they make–such as removing every non-CC member from their listhost last week–have come across as bafflingly backwards.

However, the amount of pride, enthusiasm, and sincerity put into the first-year elections over the past two years has left a glimmer of hope that CC will do what is necessary and reform itself. Increasing the amount of candidates running for a spot on CC and boosting voter awareness, the first step towards creating an effective democratic body, have already been tackled. Although this may be the hardest part, it makes no difference unless CC becomes a productive sounding board of student interest. We encourage grappling with small, important issues–like reinstating the Collegiate Readership Program–and actually resolving them, rather than focusing on overly ambitious initiatives that fail and leave the student body jaded and disappointed. The easiest way to accomplish this is to capitalize on the election fervor and introduce proposals that will continually benefit the college community.

The new CC representatives are already in a position to influence one of these issues. Like all representative bodies, it’s vital for CC to work towards transparency, and the new first-year representatives should take a strong first stance in next week’s vote to bring back the Council’s public forum. If they’re not willing to have their ideas criticized by the students who elected them to office, what does it say about the organization as a whole? If CC is going to be an insular and self-serving group this year, it will be impossible for them to introduce the ideas that will benefit campus, and the representative nature of the organization will fall apart.

If the first-year representatives can build off of yesterday’s election and turn CC around into a transparent, democratic, and respected entity, then real congratulations are in order.

 The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.