When the online College Council (CC) election polls open this evening at 10 p.m., students have one easy decision to make: vote. After that, the water gets murkier: which candidates are the best choices to fill these governing positions, especially those two seats that constitute the most audible student voices on campus, CC co-presidents? This year the two tickets running for this position both offer exciting possibilities, as evidenced by the large audience at the CC Speeches and Debate in Baxter Hall on Sunday night. When deciding between the ticket of Nick Daen ’10 and Marc Pulde ’10 and of Lizzy Brickley ’10 and Mike Tcheyan ’10, we students have the difficult and important task of separating our feelings about the individuals running and deciding which pair will lead CC most effectively. To make this choice, however, we must navigate first what exactly it is CC does. If the atmosphere of the debate was any indication, CC’s role on campus remains contentious and largely misunderstood.
So what do the CC presidents do? At the heart of CC is its role as the voice of the student body, and CC is the first organization to which administrators turn to assess student opinion. The majority of CC co-presidents’ duties fall beyond the public’s view: running meetings, appointing committee members, overseeing the budget comprised of students’ funds and meeting with faculty and staff. This year’s CC has been responsible for many small yet concrete changes to campus life including initiating the CC textbook reserve program and establishing an all-campus community calendar.
The terms of CC co-presidents, however, are not defined largely by small initiatives or weekly meetings, but rather by the way the co-presidents handle unforeseen difficulties that inevitably crop up. In the past few years, CC presidents decided to hold a card access referendum during the bio-cleanup incidents, worked at the forefront of the Stand With Us movement and organized the forum with President Schapiro in the beginning stages of financial turmoil. The efficacy – or lack thereof – with which presidents handle these types of issues speaks much more to the overall success of their term than any revived sculpture competition ever can.
The Record does not endorse CC candidates. Still, as close observers of campus affairs, we as student journalists and an editorial board hope to offer some insights into this current presidential election. Our examination will hopefully continue the debate on both broader themes as well as campaign specifics in the ways the candidates have defined themselves.
There is a strong sense among students that CC’s accomplishments are too small or invisible, while students wish that their campus government would shake the earth more frequently. Pulde and Daen’s campaign promises speak directly to that desire by addressing, as they explained in Sunday’s debate, students’ everyday lives through improvements to such things as the meal plan and transportation options. The ideas are refreshing, and two students who have taken the initiative to examine critically how these daily routines might be improved have the kind of creative idealism that new presidents should.
However, even if Daen and Pulde purport that additional costs will be low or nonexistent, the College will not smile upon any plans that even appear to jeopardize a tenuous financial situation. For instance, their proposal to allow students to cash in off-campus on missed meals potentially misjudges Dining Services’ fixed operating costs and revenue losses from student business shifting to outside venues. The chance that the College, which is mandating that all departments cut their budgets by 12 to 15 percent for next fall, will nod to such risky changes is realistically zero. Having spent most of their campaign on promises like these, they have compromised their image as effective mavericks.
On the other ticket, Brickley and Tcheyan have demonstrated their knowledge of CC and the College as a whole. They have prioritized the maintenance of elements of the College that current students consider the “essence” of Williams: Mountain Day, tutorials, Winter Study and the autonomy of the JA system. In the debate, Daen and Pulde scoffed at these priorities, insisting that none of those are going to change. To be clear: with a new president coming in and a tenuous financial climate, even these seemingly core institutions are on the table, as President Schapiro told the Record in an interview in January. Students need to be aware of this fact, and Brickley and Tcheyan’s alertness is an important quality for CC presidents to possess.
Still, Brickley and Tcheyan have not exhibited their desire to take the reigns of CC with creative vigor. Mountain Day and Winter Study are important to think about, but they are also obvious, viewbook-appropriate conceptions of Williams. Especially compared to the risky, populist platform of Daen and Pulde, Brickley and Tcheyan’s ticket risks being trustworthy to a fault. Knowing well the ropes of a bureaucratic yet seemingly friendly administration, Brickley and Tcheyan might not have the kind of anger and desire to rattle cages that students want in the position of primary student voice.
In the end, we encourage students to vote not based on personal biases, but rather with the role of CC in mind and how each ticket will serve this role. The outcome of this election will have real and tangible results for every student, and thus it is imperative that it reflect the opinions of an informed campus majority.