Amid accusations of conflicting motivations, College Council (CC) failed to elect a new co-president in a meeting on Wednesday. CC sought to fill the spot vacated by the departure of Mark Rosenthal ’03 and serve alongside current co-president Ching Ho ’03 for the remaining six weeks of the term.
After a delay in the process due to the withdrawl of Jonathan Paul ’03 last week, Jim Irving ’05 rose to challenge Scott Grinsell ’04 for the position. Although Grinsell garnered a majority of votes, he failed to earn the two-thirds majority necessary for appointment.
This leaves Ho as the sole president until the next round of elections in the spring. Although the issue could be re-visited in a forthcoming meeting, Ho expressed his belief that the process has finally reached a conclusion, stating that “after several rounds of discussion across three meetings and no approval, there is simply not enough momentum to continue.”
Some CC members expressed concern at the prospect of leaving the seat vacant. “Having a second co-president is good for Council because it allows us to make contact with as many student groups and administrators as possible. Council needs two co-presidents. It isn’t a one person job,” Grinsell said.
Irving, his opponent, echoed this sentiment, “I believe that the overall result of the election Wednesday evening was disappointing, no so much because I myself wasn’t elected but rather that no one was.”
Both candidates attempted to convey these sentiments in their speeches to the Council. Each was allotted three minutes to speak and then answered several questions posed by CC members.
Grinsell’s campaign rested largely on the prospect of getting the Council more involved and “maintaining that focus on driving projects forward.” He cited examples such as the parking garage and the new Baxter as issues where the Council should have become more involved sooner in order to achieve the best outcome for students. He asserted that this was “one of the most important years” for the Council, and that such an involved role should be continued.
Irving, meanwhile, emphasized the role and perception of CC on campus. He proposed three ideas, first that the Council “needs to seem more relevant,” second that it needs to take a more active stance and present itself as a more active body, and third that the “representation needs to be more involved with the student body.” He explained his belief that the Council can “be bold,” and that by promoting “meaningful discussion about real issues,” it can make things happen.
However, in the Council’s internal debate following the candidate’s speeches, it became clear that the debate was not solely about the issues presented. Some members questioned Irving’s qualifications and praised Grinsell’s experience within the CC. Others discussed the ability of the candidates to serve as motivators, describing Grinsell as results-oriented, while Irving’s strength lay in his presence as a source of fresh energy for CC. Finally, some doubted the significance of electing a candidate for six weeks, and suggested that members were instead more concerned with setting up a situation that would be advantageous to their possible election campaigns in the spring.
In the first vote, which required a simple majority, Grinsell won 14 votes and Irving seven, with two abstentions. This occurred only after a debate over the nature of the vote. While the Council procedures call for a closed vote in a co-president election, members voted instead for an open, “heads up” vote. In the second vote for appointment, in which a two-thirds majority was required for election, 13 members voted for Grinsell’s appointment, and nine against, with one abstention.
The process was described by several members of council as a vote to “elect Scott or to elect no one,” as phrased by representative Andres Schabelman ’06. Some expressed reluctance to have him vacate his seat as Class of 2004 representative with only six weeks left in the term, requiring the election and introduction of yet another new member to CC.
Members also discussed the possibility that upgrading Grinsell’s position would do very little to elevate his influence on the campus and within CC.
Others alleged that members of the Council sought to prevent Grinsell from becoming a co-president in order to further their own campaigns in the spring.
Additionally, some members were disturbed by the fact that the Council barely reached quorum on the vote. The number of representatives missing meant that if one member had left the room the vote would have been invalid.
“This type of environment makes it especially difficult to attain a two-thirds majority when there seemed to have been a specific group of people who may have had ulterior motives in seeing the council fill Mark Rosenthal’s vacancy,” said representative Hall O’Donnell ’03.
Regardless of the outcome, multiple members of CC expressed their desire to move forward with other issues on the agenda.
“It seems like the presidential issue has made us lose track of what we are supposed to do,” Grinsell said.
“There are plenty of issues we should be talking about, like the Baxter transition, the party policy and the housing reforms implemented last year. We haven’t addressed any of these issues because we have been so busy worrying about who will be the next President.”