Editorial: How to referee a referendum

It is not the role of the Federal Election Commission to endorse presidential candidates, and it is not the role of College Council to tell students how to vote in a referendum that it runs. CC often has the chance to make decisions for the student body, but this week it had the responsibility of running a referendum. Unfortunately CC co-presidents Kim Dacres ’08 and Morgan Goodwin ’08 failed to accept this distinction when they sent a couple of e-mails to the student body last week.

They explained that CC was organizing a referendum to determine whether or not residents should be allowed to restrict card access to their dorms. They also explained that CC was opposed to restricted card access and criticized a Record headline that read “CC questions universal card access, plans vote” because, in fact, CC defends universal card access. Forgive us for supposing that when CC asked students whether or not they supported continuing or changing the policy, it was asking the question in earnest. No, CC does not have any questions in regard to the card access policy, but it has opinions galore. We do not begrudge CC its opinion, but we do object to how CC allowed it to interfere with its role in running the referendum. When our student leaders run a referendum, they need to do it right.

CC obviously did not want to entertain the possibility of restricting card access. In fact, it was director of Campus Life Doug Schiazza and Neighborhood Governance Board (NGB) presidents who first thought of letting residents vote to restrict access to their individual houses. Campus Life was arranging house referendums without the official sign-off of the NGBs when CC stepped in. CC first finagled this all-campus vote and then took the responsibility of organizing it. In theory, CC could have responsibly communicated the issue and planned the referendum. In reality, CC did not and therefore should have taken another route. CC could have persuaded Campus Life to accept the opinion of CC as the campus opinion. CC could have proposed the referendum and stepped back, since it clearly could not communicate the vote to students with any sort of neutral tone. Then Campus Life or the Committee on Undergraduate Life could have organized the referendum. If CC and Campus Life had taken any of these routes, we might have had a chance of running a fair and honest referendum.

In the end, the results of the referendum show a consensus across the student body: most students do not want houses to be able to vote to restrict card access. But if CC is going to be taking on any similar responsibilities in the future, perhaps involving more contentious issues, it needs to learn to separate personal biases from official responsibilities.