With College Council (CC) elections this week, 2020 class representative candidate Alex Zilkha ’20 has staked a position as a staunch critic of the governing body. Zilkha, when writing his self-nomination, advocated abolishing CC as a whole, although he has since realized that goal is unattainable.
“If they won’t serve their constituents, then let them not serve at all,” Zilkha had concluded in his self-nomination. Currently, however, Zilkha does not have any plans to overthrow the decades-old body. “I was misinformed,” he said. “There is something within the bylaws that could allow for a recall of the serving College Council. I didn’t know it was just a recall, I thought it was an entire abolition.” Still, Zilkha believes that College Council cannot be fixed through incremental change. “It’s a totaled car,” Zilkha said of the Council. “It’s not worth repairing, let’s replace it.”
To Zilkha, CC, the body responsible for “approval and funding of student organizations, the relationship between students and administrators and [taking] on major campus initiatives and projects” has failed to prove its usefulness.
Zilkha is not unique in highlighting these issues. Many of this semester’s self-nominations – but not all of them – addressed the frayed relationship with the Minority Coalition (MinCo) after a fall defined by tension between the two organizations. CC’s relationship with MinCo during the fall semester was a large point of contention, with CC having come under criticism for what critics see as a lethargy in affirming support for an Asian American studies program, a lack of an equitable process for funding MinCo organizations and a tense relationship between the Finance Committee (FinCom) and both MinCo and select club sports.
“College Council just doesn’t do what it’s set out to do,” Zilkha said. “Either they’re denying people funding when they really shouldn’t be because [it is] running a surplus or they’re arguing for days and weeks in sessions.”
Zilkha, citing what he sees as CC’s inability to take decisive action and adequately use its funding, decided to run for a position as class representative for the class of 2020. In contrast to the other CC self-nominations, Zilkha posted a meme about the worthlessness of CC as a body and took his self-nomination space to write about the ways in which he saw CC as inadequate.
“I cannot stand idly by while this organization continues to deny groups such as club sports, MinCo, and other student organizations funding IN SPITE OF THE FACT that CC continues to run a surplus,” Zilkha wrote, alluding to the arguments from last semester’s session of CC in which questions were raised about the ability for the financial committee to adequately administer funds without bias, particularly in reference to MinCo groups. These tensions culminated in a committee that investigated the conduct of the sitting treasurer, Spencer Carillo ’20, and a censure of the CC co-presidents by CC members. While CC ultimately voted to keep Carillo for the remainder of the session, the frictions between many student groups and CC persist.
While many other self-nominations featured a professional photograph and an extensive explanation for why they sought the position, Zilkha’s self-nomination featured a meme and a short list-style paragraph. Although these elements, along with the calls to abolish CC might appear to some to be a joke, Zilkha asserts that he is serious. “I’m looking to light a fire under the ass of the people in charge here and get them to do something,” Zilkha said of his candidacy, though he acknowledges that to some extent he is “trying to meme a counter-culture into existence.”
To Zilkha, however, the issues are bigger than him. CC’s role in campus life is unsettling to Zilkha, and he believes that the student body is inadequately served by College Council in a fundamental way. “In theory there’s this power here, and it’s literally not worth people’s time to take it… There’s something fundamentally wrong with that,” Zilkha said.
Ultimately, Zilkha acknowledges that he may not necessarily be the person to lead the fight for a radically different College Council. “I don’t know if I’m the guy to do it to be honest, but I think I can get the ball rolling,” Zilkha admitted. He is, however, still hopeful that CC can be something better. “As long as you can promise people the hope of something better, you can mobilize people,” he said.