The turnout was so low at the Thursday, April 13 New College Student Alliance (NCSA) elections and the positions so vacant that this reporter, a first-year transfer, won the Educational Policy Committee (EPC), Student Academic Standing Committee (SASC) and the Career Services Representative (CSR) with a mere two write-in votes for each position.
With a ghost town atmosphere, the elections were monitored by Supervisor of Elections Leo Jobsis. In addressing the lowest turnout in the school’s recent political history, Jobsis postulated: “I think it is in part a problem with campus spirit in general, where a lot of people aren’t feeling motivated to participate and aren’t feeling a connection with New College in the way that previous generations of students have.”
In previous years, students have mainly won positions with votes in the triple digits. This year, in this Spring 2017 election cycle, some officially won positions with less than ten votes to their name. To give perspective, in the Spring 2015 election 219 total ballots were cast, this number drastically dropped to 110 in the early Fall 2016 cycle.
Interest seemed to increase in the late Fall 2016 election with 223 total ballots cast, in which co-presidential candidates Lara Herzog and Emily Via won a close race with 115 votes against George Thurlow and Dylan Pryor’s 105 votes, but this cycle takes the cake with only 86 total ballots cast. That’s less than the losing candidates in the last election.
Perhaps as the current NCSA co-Presidents Kayla Kisseadoo and Ximena Pedroza ran completely unopposed, this may have hindered students’ willingness to exercise their voting right. In the wake of the daunting U.S. presidential elections last November, spirits have weakened in the democratic spirit of the New College community.
“A combination of general campus atmosphere… Especially with all the politics in the news,” Jobsis said. “And that I had the election on the latest possible day and it just so happened that on that day the Forum was down.”
While the Forum can definitely be thought of as a hinderance to the overall visibility of the elections, since in past years vast amounts of lengthy email threads have left students suffocating under political news feed, the presidential elections resulting in Donald J. Trump becoming the 45th U.S. President may not have been as big of a factor.
What’s important to notice is that the last election cycle (late Fall 2016) occurred relatively shortly after the Nov. 8th Election Day. In fact, it was even right after Thanksgiving, as the results were sent out on Nov. 29, 2016. In theory, an election that was held just after Trump became president and a national holiday would prompt a low turnout if students were truly dispirited. Still, the stats show otherwise with a sizeable 223 total ballots cast in that cycle.
“I guess them [the co-Presidents] going unopposed caused there to be a big lack of turnout, but that affected everything,” first-year and newly elected Student Court Counselor Eshel Rosen said. “It caused every single person to get less votes because the major position which gets people out there was already guaranteed pretty much.”
Beyond turnout, there were various organizational issues that may have added to these poorly done elections. The Forum Moderator, which is elected and Listserv Teaching Assistant (TA), which is an appointed position, were combined as one appointed position halfway through the elections. Jobsis had updated the ballots in order to fix this, but upon hearing that the attempt to combine the positions did not meet quorum and that the Student Court overturned this legislation due to specific infringement on the Great Book reasons, he needed to change it again. Nonetheless, the two positions were finally successfully combined, leaving our Supervisor as confused as us.
“It shouldn’t be just at the very end that he [Jobsis] messes it up for everyone because then everyone has to suffer,” Rosen said.
Rosen, being one of the new Student Court Counselors along with George Thurlow, was rather confused by the consistent misinformed announcements sent out by Jobsis. Originally there was thought to be just one available Counselor position, but there were two due to a resignation, just one Student Court Justice position, but there ended up being two and there weren’t two rising third-year Student Allocations Committee (SAC) positions as originally announced, but two rising thesis student SAC positions available. Lastly, James Montgomery was the actual SAC chair, not Becca Caccavo as previously advertised.
Furthermore, although it is customary to hold Spring elections just after the Spring Break, Jobsis thought later was better than sooner since he was rather busy before the week a long break. This resulted in the elections being held on the latest possible date, but the real concern was with printing the ballots on time. Jobsis scrambled to find enough paper to print out the corrected ballots for the April 13 election day.
Hopefully in the future new ways will be taken up to sort out a more reasonably manageable election process as well as a revitalized internal spirit for involvement. Until then, congratulations to all newly elected officials of the NCSA.