After election frustration, MinCo set to move forward

After the Minority Coalition (MinCo) board elections on April 22-24, in which logistical and communication errors excluded 41 eligible students from voting, the MinCo board has been meeting over the past week to work out any disputes as well as plan for better structuring and handling of the election process in the future.

After a 6-5 vote on May 4 by the current MinCo representatives, a re-election was held on Thursday, yielding the following results: Roop Dutta ’12 as chair, Zach Evans ’12 as College Council representative, Jorge Tena ’12 as Committee for Diversity and Community representative, Daquan Mickens ’12 as secretary-historian, Monica Torres ’13 and Valerie Gonzalez ’13 as communications directors and Carrie Tribble ’13 and Mattie Feder ’13 as treasurers.

Sora Kim ’13 originally ran with Dutta as a co-chair but resigned from the race in an e-mail to the MinCo board, clarifying that the decision was not related to the integrity of the election but rather a reflection of her personal values. Kim declined further comment.

MinCo re-election

According to Dutta, mistakes were made leading up to the original election when conflicting information pertaining to when the polls would close and how students needed to go about registering to vote was circulated.

This spring’s MinCo election was the first board election open to students not a part of MinCo. Students who wanted to vote were required to attend a MinCo discussion held on April 21, during which candidates for each position delivered short speeches.

Dutta said that as incoming chair, he plans to advise the new board “to be more careful in choosing [election] dates” and ensure that every e-mail sent to the campus contains the same information. He said that to avoid mistakes such as those that occurred this year, he would advise the board to form a specific election committee “so that those who are running do not take part in running the election. Though that was not an explicit problem this year and did not contribute to the miscommunications, a lot of people mentioned that it simply would be most fair for candidates to be removed from the election process,” he explained.

Dutta called the re-election a “good idea,” because much of the miscommunication during the original election created confusion around when the voting would close, but he also noted that “only a few more people voted and the initial results remained unchanged.”

Following the miscommunication of the original election, the MinCo representatives voted 6-5 in favor of the group taking action to rectify the problem of students’ not having had access to or adequate information about voting in the election. This action manifested as a re-election, but before that re-election took place, MinCo member Eunice Baek ’13 put forth a petition to keep the original election results as is. Her petition was not advanced.

After the original election took place and the petition was put forth, Jorge Tena ’12 and Michael Semensi ’13, who ran unsuccessfully as co-chairs, withdrew their bid “because we felt that is was important for MinCo to have strong, legitimate leadership and that the discussions being held regarding the elections should not negatively affect the organization,” according to Tena.

“MinCo holding a re-election highlights the fact that we have grown as an organization. Never before have our members and allies been so invested in the results and process of an election, nor have the leadership positions been taken so seriously. The re-election of course also emphasizes that that there are several procedural issues MinCo must address next year,” he continued.

Tena will serve on the MinCo board next year as representative to the Committee on Diversity and Community, as well as continue his participation with VISTA and “work to increase collaboration between the Williams Activist Coalition and MinCo,” he said. Semensi declined to comment on his withdrawal from the race.

Next year’s leadership

As the incoming MinCo board continues to discuss its leadership for next year, several key points have come to light in recent meetings. One important discussion has centered on the role and responsibility of the representatives from the College’s MinCo subgroups.

“The role of the MinCo rep technically won’t be changing,” Dutta said. “But I hope both subgroups and the reps themselves start to take their role more seriously. As these latest events have shown, the campus does indeed care about MinCo and what it does.”

In her role as treasurer, Feder plans to emphasize to the MinCo representatives next year the importance of conveying information – especially election-related information – to their subgroups, and ensuring that subgroup constituents are fully informed of issues being discussed by MinCo.

Lili Rodriguez, director of the Multicultural Center, who is crucial in helping MinCo to secure funding, said that while the MinCo board’s decision to have a “mixture” of a half-closed, half-open election is a “very complicated procedure,” it can be feasible again next year with more cooperative teamwork and communication among the board members and MinCo representatives.

“What they do realize is that they need … allies,” Rodriguez said in explaining the benefit of opening up the MinCo elections to the campus.

“Despite some of the issues that have occurred in the recent weeks with the MinCo elections, I think we are at a very good point to start off for next year,” Gonzalez said. “Just in the last semester, we have gained visibility as an organization, and, more importantly, people are actually beginning to care about MinCo.”

Feder spoke to the increased emphasis on the MinCo representative position. “I think MinCo reps might start to be seen as more important board positions within each subgroup, but not because their role is changing,” Feder said. “I think MinCo reps have always been more powerful and important than their subgroups have realized, because MinCo itself is a very successful and influential organization on campus. I think some of the initiatives that Lili [Rodriguez] and MinCo have been making recently have caused the subgroups to understand the role and importance of their reps better.”

Rodriguez said that in the past, the MinCo representative role was seen as relatively insignificant, and it was often one that subgroups delegated to a first-year member. She also noted that while MinCo had previously served primarily as a body through which minority groups on campus were able to obtain funding for student events, recently the group – and the focus of its subgroup representatives – has become much more rooted in decision-making. She cited the recent example of the representatives’ decision to hold a re-election in demonstrating both the importance of MinCo representatives and the importance of communication between the representatives and their subgroups: Two representatives abstained from the vote on whether to hold a re-election, claiming that they did not feel comfortable voting without consulting the constituents of their subgroups.

Rodriguez cited this and the fact that MinCo is discussing the importance of its representatives going into next year as evidence that the group has been able to come together and understand that “our hard work matters,” she said. “That’s a beautiful thing,” Rodriguez continued. “I’m happy about that.”

As for remedying the mistakes that occurred in the original MinCo election this spring, Rodriguez expressed confidence in the future of the board. “Good leadership can dust themselves off, apologize for their mistakes and move on so you can have better leadership in the future,” she said.

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