Converting election energy into action

While not every campus event over Winter Carnival weekend garnered record attendance, unparalleled numbers of students flocked to College Council (CC) election polls as voter participation increased by over 300 students from last year. The numbers don’t lie: this election was different from those in years past. First-year involvement was high – of all the classes, 2012 boasted the highest voting percentage at roughly 77 percent, not to mention that five first-years ran for class representative. Previously unresponsive sectors of the student body read their e-mails and heeded the call to vote. With the fiscal climate as uncertain as who our next president and his or her values will be, it is auspicious that more students took to the polls to make their voices heard. The CC presidents have the potential to have more bearing on the future of student life at the College than they have had in a long time, and the passion of this election provides a roadmap for how to harness that potential.

Co-presidents Mike Tcheyan ’10 and Lizzy Brickley ’10 ran on a campaign of solid experience and the desire to preserve the desirable parts of the status quo, speaking to the need for reassurance that the College and the new president will not forget what students really care about. As budgetary and administrative adjustments loom large on the horizon, there is much at stake over who takes the reins and what they will do with them. More than ever, students were invested in the outcome of the election because there is a real chance that beloved traditions might dissolve. In selecting Tcheyan and Brickley, students showed support for protecting traditions like the JA system, Mountain Day, tutorials and Winter Study, promises that the co-presidents must now follow up on in their dialogue with the administration. Just when presidential searches are exciting on both campus and national levels, students have learned that harnessing their voting power can have an impact in larger forums.

At the same time, there are aspects of life at the College that students do wish to tweak, and the campaigning of runners-up Nick Daen ’10 and Marc Pulde ’10 served as a voice of such beliefs. By gamely challenging CC, the two forced the institution to defend the worth of several of its operations and policies. Their direct, hard-and-fast project outlines set a high standard for making goals and meeting them. Additionally, this novel and relatively radical stance is one possible explanation for the extra percentage of students who to the polls. Tcheyan and Brickley would do well to remember the boldness and creativity of this campaign in order to make CC a more proactive organization in the future.

With their term coming to a close, the work of exiting co-presidents Peter Nurnberg ’09 and Jeremy Goldstein ’09 should be remembered and utilized in enhancing the effectiveness of the new CC. The two were clear and forthcoming with the student body, offering helpful updates and communicating with students on pressing issues like the financial crisis and the impending departure of President Schapiro. Although some initial campaign promises did not come to fruition (for example, the campus convenience store or the Committee on Community Interaction as originally imagined), the success of Nurnberg and Goldstein came in their pursuit and completion of other measures such as the supplemental textbook initiative and the reallocation of $35,000 of CC funds. Between jumpstarting current projects and fulfilling the standard duties of CC, the team of Nurnberg and Goldstein accomplished much that will not soon be forgotten.

It is important for Tcheyan and Brickley to remain dedicated to their platform of plans like enhancing first-year advising and diversifying campus housing through the increase of co-ops. Furthermore, the team should consider the enthusiasm with which Daen and Pulde proposed their projects and incorporate this attitude into their own passionate presence. They also cannot let larger projects slip by the wayside in light of the demands of their significant administrative duties. The new board must not lose a forthright attitude in its dealings with students, nor must it disregard the responsibility and responsiveness of the era of Nurnberg and Goldstein.

This election has punctuated a time when students have been bringing forward projects and initiatives independent of CC. Daen and Pulde approached the student body with a list of innovative plans that directly addressed student needs, like the meal plan and parking, and it would be an excellent example of student initiative for them to follow through with the ideas they so passionately presented while campaigning, even if they don’t have the thrust of CC to back them up. That is to say, the responsibility for campus upkeep and evolution lies not just with CC but also with the entire student body. Every student should maintain the current campus mindset of animated involvement, just as CC members must as students empowered with additional resources. Recent models of dynamic student movements can be found in Claiming Williams Day and student-run organizations like EphBusiness and Spring Street Books, all of which materialized from purely student energy. CC remains a central voice of student outlook as the College undergoes remodeling from the inside out, but in order to harness these student voices, they must be able to hear them to begin with.