SU’s removal of freshman slates shows encouraging signs
Mere months after their slated destruction, slates were removed from the recent Freshman Class Council election.
This year, candidates had no option to join slates and instead had to run alone, marketing themselves as individuals rather than as part of a coherent unit. These elections weren’t the first time candidates could enter the race slate-less, but they were the first time independent candidates were likely to win: most of the previous Freshman Class Councils have been composed of either whole slates or split-slate hybrids, with no representation from those who chose to run as individuals.
The slate system, wherein freshmen had fewer than three weeks to compile a cabinet of five qualified candidates, largely comprised groupings of freshmen from the Leading Wash U Style pre-orientation program, which targets matriculating freshman who already have an interest in leadership positions.
The format created a funneling effect, with participants gaining the skills and peer connections necessary to mount a slate before school started, and made it difficult for the freshmen who weren’t Leading Wash U Style alumni to find a complete slate. During that time, they were also navigating college classes, becoming familiar with new living environments, trying out extracurriculars for size and developing friend groups.
Without a slate system in place, otherwise qualified applicants who might have floundered without the infrastructure provided by slates and relationships from a pre-orientation program are on roughly the same footing with their peers.
This election also saw the highest voter turnout in recent Student Union history—eight candidates ran for president alone—which could be the result of the increased number of candidates competing. The dissolution of the slate system removes a cumbersome barrier to entry for freshmen, allowing more students to run and fostering a more competitive environment that should lead to stronger councils and greater voter participation. The new electoral system, in turn, will lead to better FCC-sponsored events and activities while nurturing a culture of political commitment on campus.
Equally remarkable is the expedited nature of this revision of the slate system. During Student Life’s interview with Student Union Executive Board candidates last spring, now-President Emma Tyler and now-Vice President of Administration Vivek Biswas spoke of their desire to phase out the slate system from SU elections.
Prior SU exec campaign promises have failed to deliver, but in accomplishing a dismantling of the slate system for FCC so early on in the school year, we have strong hopes that the trend will actually continue this spring with the complete removal of the slate system across all SU elections.
Such a move would yield similar results to the success of this year’s FCC elections, reinvigorating the student body to engage more with its University’s internal political processes. SU should take advantage of the reformed system it has gained with FCC elections and reevaluate how students interact with the University’s largest governing student body.