I would like to express my sincere disappointment in the decision of College Council (CC) to annul last week’s presidential election. One of the reasons the election should have stood is that Teddy Cohan ’16 and Meghana Vunnamadala ’16 in no way committed “wrongdoings” that were “grievous” enough to warrant an annulment. The texts that Vunnamadala sent were few in number and insignificant in impact; even if the votes garnered after the texts are discounted, the election results remain in favor of Cohan and Vunnamadala. The Election Supervisory Committee explained its choice to propose annulment by claiming that the pair’s actions “compromised the ‘free and fair’ nature of the elections,” something which constitutes a “grievous wrongdoing” (“Emergency CC meeting annuls election,” March 4, 2015). However, in no way was the “free and fair” nature of the elections degraded by a few misleading texts. Everyone who wanted to vote was given the opportunity to do so, and each individual’s vote had the same weight. Cohan and Vunnamadala did not try to stop people from voting, nor did they skew the results by tinkering with the system to give some people more influence and others less. Neither the freedom nor the fairness of the elections was compromised by the actions of Cohan and Vunnamadala.
What is much more concerning about CC’s decision than their overreaction to the texts is their apparent mindset that the student body is incapable of thinking for itself. In essence, CC’s argument is that even though the texts in no way changed the outcome of the election, the results should still be voided because some students were tricked into thinking one side was losing when no one knew the actual standings. Does CC really believe that the student body is so malleable and spineless that people will change their views based on a last-minute attempt to garner votes? The texts may have brought out a few people who were already supporters of Cohan and Vunnamadala but had not yet voted or made a few ambivalent folks vote for the underdog, but they surely did not make students who voted or were going to vote for Grant Johnson ’17 change their minds at the last second. To believe that is an insult to the character of students at the College. Although members of CC may have thought that they were “protecting” students from unfair election practices, in reality, they simply were revealing their mindset that students cannot make informed, rational decisions and instead need to be hand-held through the process of voting. If students cannot make the distinction for themselves between voting for someone based on the merits of the ticket and mindlessly casting their vote for whoever seems the most desperate, so be it. It is not the position of CC to make this distinction for the whole student body.
The cause of this overreaction stems from a combination of factors, the most prominent being that CC is simply overzealous and feels the need to do meaningful work, even if it means overstepping its bounds. While the desire to help the school in tangible ways is an admirable quality, the events of the past week and a half show that that drive to improve the College can be distorted into fuel for a witch hunt, in which CC, as a result of its need to feel productive, overreacts to relatively minor issues. The second factor that contributed to the decision to annul the election has to do with the sentiment, often found in liberal institutions, that the government, be it run by students or professional politicians, is there to solve everyone’s problems. As mentioned before, CC’s decision reveals its lack of confidence in the student body’s ability to make rational decisions on its own. It feels the need to guide our decisions, even if that guidance is unnecessary. It would obviously be untrue to claim that CC wants more influence over students’ everyday decisions, but the fact that it jumped on the first opportunity it had to hand-hold the student body through a minor incident reveals its coddling tendencies. The fact that CC’s decision was almost unanimous is all the more concerning.
In all, although CC’s decision to annul the election results may have been well intentioned, the implications of its actions were poorly judged, and resulted in the unfair punishment of Cohan and Vunnamadala, neither of whom deserve to be stripped of the presidency.
Dan Mueller ’18 is from Leominster, Mass. He lives in Pratt.