Freshman class council elected without slate system

Stephanie Peres-da-Silva | Contributing Reporter

This year’s Freshman Class Council elections, which saw the highest voter turnout in years, signaled the beginning of the end for the slate system.

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Of the 54.1 percent of the freshman class that voted in the election, 24.4 percent selected Richard Wu as FCC president, giving him the highest total. The other students elected were Elise Burton, vice president of administration; Kevin Jia, vice president of finance; Molly Brodsky, vice president of programming; and Maria Gilfoyle, vice president of public relations.

The slate system, which Student Union elections have traditionally used, required candidates to choose a group of members—a full slate—with whom to run for office. However, SU’s executive board says it plans to discontinue the slate system for all future SU elections, a move it hopes will allow more students to participate in Student Union.

According to senior and SU President Emma Tyler, while the old system did encourage collaboration within slates, it functioned as a “popularity contest” by excluding students who had not been extensively involved with SU.

Freshman Elise Burton speaks at the class council debate in Tisch Commons Monday. Burton received 52.5 percent of the vote Wednesday to win the seat of freshman vice president of administration.

Freshman Elise Burton speaks at the class council debate in Tisch Commons Monday. Burton received 52.5 percent of the vote Wednesday to win the seat of freshman vice president of administration.

“The biggest issue [was] people turning away from running for SU positions, particularly [the executive board], because they don’t want to or can’t get that group of four together,” Tyler said.

Senior and SU Vice President of Administration Vivek Biswas explained that the slate process encouraged friends to run together.

“Traditionally in Student Union, someone would choose to run for president and just pick four people to run with them,” Biswas said.

Sophomore Abby Rickeman, who ran for freshman class council last year, found the slate system to be rewarding but thought it unfortunate that slates did not necessarily win together.

“I learned how to organize a campaign with a group of people, which taught me a lot about how to cooperate and compromise with a team…[But] it had its downsides due to the fact we had a split slate, meaning only some of the people on our slate [won] positions on FCC,” Rickeman said.

By eliminating slates, Student Union hopes to make candidacy more accessible for all students, regardless of prior student government experience.

In a press release, Tyler attributed the higher-than-usual voter turnout to the removal of slates.

“We think removing slates increased the number of freshmen that decided to run and with that increased voter turn out,” Tyler wrote in the press release. “It definitely led a wider range of students to run and made the campaigning more competitive.”

This system change is not exclusive to the fall’s Freshman Class Council elections. Sophomore, Junior and Senior Class Council and executive elections in the spring will also discontinue the slate system in favor of individual campaigns.

“It’ll take a couple years to really see whether the elimination of the slate system produces more effective elections and more determined candidates,” Tyler said. “Our hope is that [the change] will breed more competition and more productive SU officers.”

Before the polls opened on Tuesday, candidates were able to discuss their goals for the year at the freshmen debates in Tisch Commons on Monday.

Freshman Yihan Zhuang was one of the many undergraduate students in attendance. In addition to listening to candidates’ ideas about how they intend to help the freshman community, she was also exposed to members of the race that she did not know previously.

“If we didn’t come to this [debate], we would only know the [candidates] from our floor or our friends,” Zhuang explained.

In addition to running without a slate, this year’s class council members will have increased duties as officers.

“Freshman Class Council traditionally has been a programming body, but our exec decided that we could use the pulse that Freshman Class Council can feel on the freshman class and have that signal some changes in Student Union as a whole,” Biswas said.

Now, the vice presidents of administration for all class councils must attend Senate meetings, and the vice presidents of finances must attend Treasury meetings.

“I would like to see a greater responsiveness from SU as a whole just by having those extra voices in the room for Senate and Treasury meetings where a lot of big decisions are made,” Biswas explained. “This would hopefully further the link between the legislative and executive branches of SU and lead to a more responsive government for all the undergraduates at Wash. U.”

With additional reporting by Emily Schienvar.

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