October 9, 2007

First-years kick off campaign

Voting begins Tuesday in first-year Student Government (SG) College Council (CC) elections, with a record 19 first-year candidates vying for the four open council seats. The election, which will be held online at SG’s website through 5 p.m. Thursday, has already taken to the streets—literally—with sidewalks surrounding many campus residence halls coated in chalk advertisements.

“This level of participation is a reflection of the trend toward a more legitimate and fully representative student government,” SG President Scott Duncombe said in a written statement. “Students have begun to recognize the role that Student Government plays as a liaison with the administration and as a forum for discussing issues important to the University Community.”

This year marks the first that only first-year seats are up for grabs; traditionally, the entire council is elected in the fall, but because of a constitutional change approved last year, the second- through fourth-years were selected last spring.

The candidates represent a diverse swath of the incoming undergraduate class, with widely varying experience and a spectrum of concerns and goals.

In a series of e-mail interviews with the MAROON, a number of candidates mentioned their interest in improving communication between CC and the student body, an issue that became important to the council after it endured repeated criticism last year for a perceived disconnect between representatives and the student body. Activists urging the removal of Coca-Cola products from campus and University divestment from Darfur lambasted the council as ineffective, while gay-rights groups protested the council’s decision not to remove a council member who sent an allegedly homophobic e-mail to another CC representative.

“I want to be on SG because I’ve heard a lot of bad things about how this one has been run, and I hope to do whatever I can to contribute to fixing that,” first-year candidate Will Larsen said. “I know Student Government tends to become unimportant and useless, but with the power granted it by the administration and the students, it has no excuse for failing to accomplish anything meaningful for the student body.”

“I think the biggest challenge facing SG this year is red tape,” Anish Patel said. “Carrying out even the simplest of ideas, like displaying art on the quads or adding more garbage cans, is slowed down by regulations and protocol.”

Other candidates hoped to improve transportation options throughout campus or make subtle improvements to everyday student life.

“As many students know—especially those in Broadview and the Shoreland—the bus system is in massive need of an overhaul,” Julian Quintanilla said. “While adding more buses cannot be accomplished due to budget constraints, there are alternate methods that can be looked into.”

“I want to make our UCIDs more useful by approaching both Hyde Park and downtown businesses to offer discounts for card-holding students,” Greg Nance said.

CC will also be holding a special election October 17 to fill the seat of third-year representative Jennifer Akchin, who was the Class of 2009’s top vote-getter in the spring elections but is not returning to the U of C this year. Candidates for that position must petition the council and will be selected by an internal SG vote.