October 16, 2009

First-year College Council reps pledge transparency

Surrounded by a Hutchinson Commons full of students who were more distracted than interested, this year’s newly elected first-year College Council (CC) representatives expressed their hope for a more transparent and involved Student Government (SG) last night.

Ajeet Singh received 165 votes, followed by Frank Alarcon with 135, Patrick Ip with 129, and Travis Benaiges with 112. Over 350 first-years voted, according to SG President and fourth-year Jarrod Wolf, a particularly high number, though he could not give exact comparisons.

In a year in which more first-year students, 19 in total, campaigned for election than ever before, the election seemed especially significant to the candidates.

Benaiges, who managed a 14,000-member organization as a Key Club district governor at his Florida high school, believed the increased competition the campaign required allowed him to reach out to parts of campus he normally would have ignored.

“We really had to push out to the entire student body,” Benaiges said. “How difficult the campaign was [will be] really beneficial.”

Second-year May Yeung, SG vice president of administration, was confident in the newly elected representatives, but did not think that this year was more competitive than past years.

“I think what was interesting about this year is that there were more candidates but their campaigns were not that hardcore,” said Yeung, who ran in a hotly contested first-year election last year.

Winning elections is old hat to Ip, who served as the youngest Assembly District Delegate for California, one of the youngest politicians in the state’s history, helping shape the state’s Democratic Party platform.

Ip said he has plans for the U of C’s relatively small constituency. “I hope to help reshape the image of SG. Because so many people ran, I really hope that people will go through with campaign promises—if we aren’t doing our jobs, we want to know,” he said.

All of the winners spoke of improving communication with the student body. Singh, who served as his Iowa high school’s secretary of academics, said it was the most important issue.

“Communication is a vital aspect of any governing body­—open communication and transparency, that is. With no communication, it is difficult to address issues,” he said.

As far as making increased communication a reality, only Alarcon, who took to his blog moments after winning, offered a plan that would include requiring all representatives to hold office hours, a promise he made during his campaign.

As far as keeping these campaign promises, Yeung, who ran last year with a platform focused on alleviating transportation issues, said there are limitations to realizing those goals.

“It’s very normal that people outside of SG don’t know what they can actually do,” Yeung said. “There’s a lot more involved to get things done.”

Now that CC has four first-years to round out its body, they will vote today to fill the assembly’s remaining positions. The special election, to fill four vacant positions, will add three fourth-years and one third-year to CC.