WSU sees increased voter turnout, all elections contested for first time

Gabe Miller

The Williams Student Union (WSU) announced its spring semester representatives on Feb. 16 — the results of the first completely competitive election in its seven-semester-long history. “We’re gratified that students in all class years are passionate about stepping up to advocate for Williams students,” members of WSU wrote in an email to the Record.

The elected representatives for the spring semester are Manny Copeland ’23, Caitlin Han ’23, Rodrigo Valdiviezo-Salazar ’23, Samir Ahmed ’24, Gwyn Chilcoat ’24, Surya Kotapati ’24, Laura Allemann Chamon ’25, Shoshie Hemley ’25, Bobby Verhey ’25, Amirah Parker ’26, Dylan Safai ’26, and Jeffrey Zigbuo ’26. Valdiviezo-Salazar, Kotapati, Chamon, and Parker are all new to WSU this semester.

In an email to the Record, Verhey wrote that it was “fantastic” to see that every race was competitive, a characteristic he believed helped spur WSU’s second-highest turnout rate of 31.7 percent. “With more candidates running, there were more ideas circulating and greater dialogue on campus regarding the elections, which is great for WSU now and in the future,” Verhey wrote.

“I read the increased turnout as reflecting a greater student appetite for engagement with governance issues affecting the College and its place in the wider community, and I’m excited to facilitate that,” Kotapati wrote.

WSU, Facilitators for Accessing Student Taxes (FAST), and The Advisory Board for Lobbying and Elections (TABLE) comprise the College’s Three Pillars student government system, formed after the 2020 dissolution of the College Council (CC). Unlike CC, WSU has a non-hierarchical structure and lacks formal powers, operating instead as an elected body that advocates for students to the administration.

In contrast to last fall’s election, which triggered a constitutional change after an elected representative immediately resigned, this election ran more smoothly. However, members of the junior class who studied abroad for the fall semester but returned for the spring did not receive ballots. WSU representatives, who run their elections through a third-party system, said they were not aware of the ballot issue until after the election.

WSU members this semester shared plans that range from reviving the annual formal for first-years to College history awareness efforts. “I am excited to be working on a number of projects that will help benefit the entire community like increased cell service and more lights on campus at night to improve campus safety,” Safai wrote.

Chilcoat also noted that WSU’s Written in Stone project, which seeks to engrave the College’s marble blocks with writings, acknowledgements, and art celebrating historically underrepresented groups, and Haystack Monument plaque project, which involves advocating for the College to replace the Mission Park plaques and gather community input on the Haystack Monument, are nearing completion.

“We’ll be working with our campus partners to plan community events to engage with Williams’ colonialist legacies and work towards a campus space that is more inclusive and welcoming,” she said.