Last week, College Government President (CGP) Kimberly Chia Yan Min ’19 filled her College Government President’s Council (CGPC) with eight Wellesley students who are dedicated to serving the campus community. The College Government (CG) Constitution does not clearly define the mission of the CGPC or put restrictions on how many students can serve on it. However, the CGPC is traditionally a team of eight to ten students who work closely with the CGP to help them fulfill aspects of their platform. Chia decided that this year, members of the CGPC would work with her to improve CG elections.
The CG election process has been widely criticized in recent months, largely because it took three separate elections for Wellesley students to successfully elect a CGP for the 2018-2019 school year. Several student have expressed frustration with the Elections Committee (EC) for removing candidates from the ballot over minor offenses. Chia herself was removed from the ballot in the most recent election after a member of her campaign team committed a tier three violation. However, she received enough write-in votes to win the presidency.
Chia said in a statement to the Wellesley News that she wants to focus on making concrete and lasting changes to CG Elections during her time as president, rather than simply discuss the current problems with the system. “After every ‘negative’ election cycle students talk about what needs to change, and how broken the elections process is. But talking about it is easy — taking responsibility for it is way harder,” Chia stated.
Chia is not the first member of CG who has tried to reform the election process. Last spring, a group of senators proposed several constitutional changes regarding CG elections. However, the provisions did not pass due to limited attendance at the meeting. Chia hopes that the “CGPC will pick up where previous attempts to amend CG constitutional provisions about the elections left off.” Chia shared that one of the senators who proposed changes last spring is serving on her CGPC.
Though the CGPC has only met once so far, Chia already has some ideas on how the election process can improve. She wants to look more closely at how the ballot is administered to end the recent trend of candidates being removed at the last minute. Chia also wants to constitutionally guarantee that voter turnout is published alongside election results.
Esther Jaffee ’19 ran against Chia in the second CGP race for the 2018-2019 school year. EC removed Jaffee’s name from the ballot after she sent an email to the student body a few minutes after the campaign deadline had passed. Though she was a competitive candidate, Jaffee chose not to run for the CGP a second time. However, she publicly endorsed Chia’s second campaign.
“I endorsed Kimberly because running against someone provides a lot of information about the person, including, most importantly, her sincere desire to serve the Wellesley in the office of the presidency,” Jaffee shared.
Jaffee is pleased that Chia is taking steps to reform the election process. “The electoral process as it currently is is miserable, degrading and leaves candidates feeling unsupported while putting them at odds with the Elections Committee,” she said. “I am glad there is an effort underway to improve the process.”
Juniper Ozbolt ’21 feels that reforming the election process could improve the relationship between CG and the rest of the campus community. “In the last few elections, candidates were disqualified from the race. Students had a hard time being motivated to vote and knowing who and what they were voting for. I think reforming [the election process] would improve trust in CG overall.”
While several students have expressed dissatisfaction with the current CG election process in recent months, only four people applied to be on the CGPC by the original Nov. 2 deadline. Chia extended the application deadline to Nov. 8, and has since picked up an additional four members.
Though Chia is working with a smaller CGPC than usual, she is thankful for the eight students who have joined her committee. Normally the CGP assembles their CGPC at the start of the academic year, but because Chia was elected so much later than usual, she had to ask students to join her committee mid-semester.
The president shared, “It is difficult to assemble a committee mid semester, in the midst of midterm season. It is tricky to convince students to give up time right now when so many of us already have prior commitments. But people came through. That was an incredibly inspiring moment for me.”