On Feb. 15, the 2015 presidential candidates for College Council (CC) were announced to the student body via email: Meghana Vunnamadala ’16 and Teddy Cohan ’16 are campaigning as co-presidential candidates, while Grant Johnson ’17 is running as a single ticket.
Vunnamadala and Cohan centered their campaign around increasing campus involvement and fostering a sense of inclusion in student government.
“I think that the pretty widespread issue is that a lot of people really don’t feel like they have a voice at the College, and then beyond that they don’t feel like they have a voice or a stake in College Council,” Vunnamadala said.
Cohan noted ways in which the pair is planning to remedy that problem, from adding a discussion of community and diversity matters to the beginning of each CC meeting to inviting student groups on a more regular basis.
“If we give time for them to talk about their issues, then we can really create solutions that will be beneficial to them,” Cohan said.
The co-presidential candidates cited their love of both the College and of student government, as well as their desire to give students a voice, as their motivations to run for office.
Johnson also decided to run because he felt there was a widespread apathy throughout the student body towards CC, especially concerning elections in which candidates often run uncontested.
“At least as far as the democratic process goes and the College Council process goes, there should be some sort of competition and proper election for whoever wins the presidency and whoever is in charge of this really powerful position on campus,” Johnson said.
If elected, Johnson would prioritize sexual assault prevention, likely by implementing bystander training for the entire student body.
Johnson aims to reexamine the workings of CC with its current members and lessen the Council’s time commitment by shortening its weekly meetings to an hour, which he believes would make it more efficient and more appealing to potential members.
“One of the first things I want to do is sit down with all the [Vice Presidents], who I believe are all running uncontested and who are all from within College Council, and talk to them about what they think are the biggest inefficiencies within College Council, ways to make it less of a chore,” Johnson said.
“Right now it’s kind of a social organization, kind of a club where there’s this sort of gentlemen’s agreement, ‘I’m going to run for this position, you’re going to run for this position.’ Pretty much outside of the freshman class there isn’t an election for representatives.”
Vunnamadala and Cohan also pointed out a problem with CC’s image. “The fact that people say, ‘Oh, College Council doesn’t do anything,’ that kind of goes to the heart of the problem in our minds, because it means that people don’t feel empowered to utilize College Council in its entirety,” Cohan said.
The team has been meeting with “as many student groups as possible” in order to address that issue. “We’ve just been having meetings every day, and once we’re there, [those groups] can say, ‘Oh, I have an advocate in student government who I know and who can fight for what I believe in,’” Cohan said.
Vunnamadala serves on the Honor and Discipline Committee and the Committee for Diversity and Community. She is currently a representative for the class of 2016, while Cohan has served as CC treasurer. The co-presidential candidates cited their past experience with CC and their roles as co-founding members of Kinetic, a campus think-tank, as their strongest qualifications for the office, as well as Vunnamadala’s experience as the current JA of the Williams F entry and Cohan’s work with the Lecture Series committee and Kaplan Council.
“[Kinetic] really taught us about how to take an idea for a solution to a problem, design a solution, and then implement it. I think that through our joint experiences we have a really unique pulse on the campus on how individual actors work and how you can actually create change at the College,” Vunnamadala said.
Cohan and Vunnamadala emphasized making tangible changes in campus life, such as implementing a rewards system in snack bar, redoing Factrak and starting a Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First Years (WOOLF) program for seniors.
When asked of his qualifications for the CC presidency, Johnson pointed solely to his status as a student at the College. “I think just being a Williams student qualifies me,” he said. “A lot of people will say, oh, CC president is a big job, only a few people can do it, but I think if you’re a Williams student, whatever you put your mind to you can really succeed at.”
Polls open through email this Thursday at 4 p.m. and close Saturday at 8 p.m.