Candidates for helming the neighborhood system are in short supply, as revealed by last week’s neighborhood governance board (NGB) elections. Out of the 26 positions between Dodd, Spencer, Currier and Wood NBGs, only two – Spencer social chair and Wood historian – were contested.
Concerns over adequate NGB student leadership harken back to the creation of the neighborhood system. Although the original Committee of Undergraduate Life (CUL) proposal recommended six neighborhoods, the neighborhoods were reduced to five for geographic reasons, and then eventually to four.
“[Former] Dean [Nancy] Roseman . . . was concerned there wouldn’t be enough student leaders to do all the work in five neighborhoods,” said Will Dudley ’89, professor of philosophy and the CUL chair at the time the proposal was made. Nevertheless Dudley said that larger neighborhoods may have also created difficulties in building communities where “members [knew] each other.” “From that perspective, more neighborhoods would be better than fewer,” Dudley said. “A stronger communal connection might also make it easier to attract student leaders.”
Campus leaders, however, suggest that uncontested elections are no cause for alarm. According to Peter Nurnberg ’09, CC co-president and outgoing Dodd president, NGB elections should be fair and yield leaders who are “capable of doing a good job.” “You don’t necessarily need contested elections to fulfill either of those goals,” Nurnberg said, but added that contested elections “give a little more credibility” to incoming NGB members.
An additional factor in NGB elections is the need for continuity of leadership. NGB members allege that even if the elections had been contested by outsiders, the results would have remained mostly the same. “It’s very difficult if not impossible for someone not on the board before to come in and serve as president and hit the ground running,” said Jon Prigoff ’08, outgoing Wood president.
The lack of competition has simplified campaigning for NGB candidates. Few candidates managed publicity campaigns, and the election was characterized by a dearth of posters. “I honestly anticipated the election being uncontested, and I didn’t do any campaigning,” said Dean Weesner ’11, the newly-elected treasurer of Wood.
Participation for the various neighborhoods varied between 15 percent for Currier to 27 percent for Dodd. Spencer and Wood fell in-between with rates of 21 percent and 20 percent, respectively.