On April 12, the Elections Committee (EC) reported in an email to the student body that the position of College Government President (CGP) will be vacant going into the 2018-2019 academic year. This comes after regular elections for the College Government (CG) cabinet, held on March 15, failed to produce conclusive winners for the roles of CGP, College Government Vice President (CGVP) and Secretary Treasurer.
For the special elections, which took place from April 5 to April 11, three students announced their candidacy for CGP: Esther Jaffee ’19, Kimberly Chia Yan ’19 and Madeline Wood ’19. Wood dropped out of the race on April 11, citing her busy workload during her senior year. “Going into a senior year that was stretched for time, I felt as though it wouldn’t be responsible for me to take on the immense time commitment of CGP in addition to the other transitions that I would personally have to figure out,” Wood said. However, she felt confident that the race would work out well without her participation, stating, “I trusted both Kim and Esther as candidates and felt as though I was leaving the election in good hands.”
The debate between the special election candidates was originally scheduled for 8:15 p.m. in Tishman Commons on April 11. However, due to scheduling conflicts with another campus organization for the reserved space, the time allotted for the candidates to answer questions from the student body was shorter than usual. “We were given questions after the debate that could not be posed to us in the time provided,“ Jaffee recalled. She said that “Instead, EC announced that they would transcribe the questions for the candidates and send us an email with the questions from the audience that went unanswered in the debate. They sent us the questions at 9:30, reminding us that we must have our answers by 11:59.”
Jaffee struggled to meet the deadline and sent a response to the questions at 12:04 a.m., five minutes after the 11:59 p.m. deadline to end all elections campaigning. She said that her prior commitments that day, coupled with unforeseen personal issues and an underestimation of the amount of questions that would be asked, caused the delay in response. “I got home and realized I had, actually, 15 questions to answer and might not have a best friend anymore,” Jaffee said. “I thought, by taking the time to eat, by walking home, by responding to my friend’s texts, I chose my own concerns over the campus’ concerns. I felt indescribable depths of guilt for that choice on my part.” She added that she felt that completing all of the questions that were asked of her was more important than sending those answers by precisely 11:59 p.m. and that EC would understand that choice. “I did not expect to get taken off the ballot for doing something that EC indicated was of ‘urgent’ importance,” she explained
In response to Jaffee’s five-minute delay, EC sent an email to the student body, stating, “It has come to our attention that Esther Jaffee sent an email to campus in relation to her campaign past the active campaigning deadline – at 12:04am” and explained that “Intentionally choosing to not observe this clearly articulated deadline results in a Tier 3 Violation. After meeting with the candidate, EC has made the decision to remove her from the ballot.” However, it left students the option to vote for Jaffee as a write-in candidate and noted that votes for her that had already been cast would still be counted.
However, at the election results party on April 12, it was announced that, after two rounds of elections, the position of CGP would still remain unoccupied. This announcement was met with confusion on the part of the student body, many of whom did not know it was possible for no one to win the election.
The answer lies in EC’s decision to change Jaffee’s status to that of a write-in candidate on the last day of elections. At Wellesley College, candidates for College Government positions who run with opponents must only get a plurality of the vote to win. Candidates who run as write-ins — as Jaffee was forced to do— must win more votes than that and gain 51 percent of the vote. The same goes for candidates who run unopposed, as Yan suddenly found herself doing. The precise figures on election results by percentage or by number of votes have not been released.
Afterwards, Yan and Jaffee sent out a collaborative email to the student body expressing their disappointment with the results. “We would mostly like to say that we are a mix of being fine and being tired, but mostly we are just as confused as you are. So if you are confused about what is going on – do not worry. We are confused too, but we trust it will turn out alright in the end,” they explained. In the email, Yan also said that she was drafting a resolution to request a recount of the election results and the release of those results. Both Yan and Jaffee were not told what the breakdown of the election results was, according to their email. The EC declined to comment for this article.
At Senate on Monday, April 23, it was explained that until a permanent CGP is elected in the fall, our elected CGVP, Saafia Masoom ’20, will serve as interim CGP, and the Cabinet will run a second round of special elections — and third overall round of elections — to elect a CGP next fall.
“It has been a rollercoaster of a week for the both of us and our campaign teams, and we are really happy that we can now profess our mutual love and respect for each other not just as candidates, but as friends. So there’s much positivity that is coming out of this,” Yan and Jaffee said in their email. “We hope this Special Elections has been a learning process for all of us here at Wellesley, particularly in imagining what we would like the Wellesley community to be going forward.”