Sadly, the task force may be doomed: College Council’s weak reform process

Darin Li

It’s amazing to see how easily “reforming College Council” stiffened around a weak process. In the wake of dysfunction, and passionate disfavor, we hastily put together a task force. CC Co-Presidents Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20 and Ellie Sherman ’20 imagine this to be a coup de grâce for CC, but I fear this is a coup d’état.

All it took was an email on November 21 – and voila – the student body nominated itself for a handful of seats. Elections ended on November 24, and we got to see the pitiless details. Our task force was 16 students total: three from the student body, three from the Minority Coalition, three from CC, one from the Student Athletics Advisory Committee, one Junior Advisor, one from a certain type of registered student organization, and so on.

Let’s try to digest this arbitrary attempt at diversity. In what democracy do 3/16 students deserve to represent, and I quote their language, the “student body-at-large”? How do athletes hold so little voting power, when they together comprise so much of the student body? But mainly, I ask: why are 3/16 seats saved for CC members? Are they exempt from a competitive election, that of the student body-at-large they claim to represent? We cannot have a perfectly nonpartisan task force, but to have it conceived so blankly is disappointing. It reminds me of something, frankly. In 1789, in the twilight of the old regime, Louis XVI summoned the Estates General to Versailles.

The largest absurdity is believing that the king will reform France. We already elected many representatives who promised reform, and it has yet to work. Nonetheless, I congratulate them for allowing us to air our grievances previously — for their humility to structure the reform process. But this structure is shaky at best.

A newly elected member told me, speaking anonymously, “I didn’t know which seat to run for. I had no idea which seat was going to be competitive or how many representatives there were.” He or she is slightly inaccurate here; CC mentioned in self-nominations that they wanted 15 people on the task force. CC messed up, and we elected 16 people total.

Although this mistake is funny, what is sad is how unfair the election was. As my friend told me, he or she only won because the competition was slim. There is a vexing pattern at work. Looking at the ballot results, the competition among student-body-at-large and athletics representatives was fierce. Yet 6 other elections were decided without opposition – unless we count Papa Smurf (0.2 percent), None (0.2 percent), and Jesus (0.2 percent) as credible candidates.

Still, we must have faith in the individuals we elected. I am proud that they ran for office, despite the convoluted process. They did not know which elections were going to be competitive. They committed their Winter Study to fixing what’s incorrigibly broken. Surely, a second coming is at hand.

Yet, I also fear. That the representative body was arbitrarily delineated was troubling. That the election was not democratic is worse. Still, I want to be proven wrong. I lean too heavily on allusion and sarcasm. Mirroring Carlos’s words, I wish the task force the best of luck. I give a maudlin toast: to a just government, yet to be born.

Darin Li ’21 majors in mathematics and history and is from San Jose, Calif.