When I first heard about the upcoming College Government (CG) elections, I was very excited. In high school, student government was seemingly a popularity contest and there was not much of a focus on the issues. I thought these elections would be competitive processes that focused on the issues relevant to our campus and would pull numerous candidates into the mix, but I was mistaken.
I was very surprised by the number of unopposed positions for CG Cabinet offices. I thought that at Wellesley, where everyone strives to exemplify the phrase “women who will,” there would be numerous people running for each position.
Of the eight positions, six of them were unopposed with the positions of College Government President and Director of On Campus Affairs possessing two candidates each. With a student population of about 2,400, I was very surprised by the low turnoutin candidates. Since some of the positions are limited to those who are a part of SBOG, Honor Code Council, or SOFC, it makes sense for some positions to go uncontested since they require a self-selected applicant pool. But I was surprised that there was only a write-in candidate for CG Vice President.
The low turnout for potential candidates stems from the small number of students involved with CG. Since there are not many students involved in CG, there is a smaller percentage of those who would be interested in running for a CG Cabinet position.
The number of uncontested positions is problematic because it does not allow voters enough choice in whom to elect. While there is the option to abstain, there needs to be a certain number of votes in order to achieve an abstention. I have no doubt that the new cabinet members are qualified for their respective positions, but I think the lack of choice is harmful to the voters. I do not think CG elections should give voters the “this candidate or no candidate option” — I think there should be more choice. In our current government system, we have two political parties, thereby giving voters two options, and sometimes more given the variation on the political spectrum. Now, I am not sure if there is a systematic way to ensure more candidates run for CG Cabinet positions, but I think by improving CG retention rates and encouraging student involvement in CG, more candidates will come out of the woodwork to run for leadership positions.
Another aspect of the uncontested positions is the message it sends to students — that there is little interest in helping the Wellesley community through student government. I think the problem is CG retention rate. As a Senator, I know that Senate is mostly full of first-year students, with few Senators from other class years. According to Katelyn Campbell ’17, there is a culture that Senate is primarily a first-year activity which leads to Senators only serving for one academic year. This culture lends itself to having fewer older students in CG to be potential candidates for Cabinet positions. I think in order to decrease the number of uncontested CG positions, as a college, we need to find ways to increase Senator retention rate as well as maintain involvement in CG over the years at Wellesley.
Wellesley’s unique environment of a women’s environment encourages student involvement inside and outside the classroom, and CG should be no different. While I understand there are many committments pulling students in various directions — athletics, internships, jobs, and of course, our academics — CG is an important way for students to have their voices heard and to help improve our college. I think increased student involvement over the years will strengthen our CG and thereby strengthen our student body.
Graphic Courtesy of College Government