According to former election commission chairBenjamin W. Hulse '99, most winners needed onlyabout 15 or 20 votes to secure office. Alex S.Myers '00 says he won a Dudley House spot withonly five.
"That's basically asking your blockmates tovote for you," Danganan says.
Administrators and students alike can see thesenumbers on the council's Web page, among otherplaces, and members say they have an impact on thecouncil's on-campus effectiveness.
"You can claim you have a mandate, but when youhave elections where 20 to 30 percent of thestudents are voting, that mandate doesn't exist,"former council member Lanhee J. Chen '99 says."And the University knows that."
Over the course of an average year, about halfof the council's members resign or are expelledfor low attendance, according to Hulse, who washimself expelled and then reinstated.
These departing members are replaced in specialelections with even lower turnouts. Council VicePresident Samuel C. Cohen '00 admits thatnoncompetitive elections often "hurt ourcredibility."
"Almost every week there's a special election,"says council member Steve W. Chung '01. "It'sshameful and embarrassing."
$20--Where Does it Go?
The $20 student activity fee on eachundergraduate's fall term bill is in large partthe stuff the council's $130,000 budget is madeof.
Officially, the money goes to more than 200needy student groups, pays for jousting and eightkegs of beer at Springfest and funds the council'soperational expenses.
Somewhere along the way though, $340 wasallotted by representatives to support "randomacts of kindness." And $1,000 is used to pay forthe trip four delegates recently made to attendmeetings of the Ivy Council, an organization ofother Ivy League student governmentrepresentatives that Cohen says proved to be "awaste of money" the last two years Harvard hasparticipated.
The council was divided in its support for bothallocations, and several representatives nowquestion the rationale behind these decisions.
Robert S. Schwartz '00, who chairs thecouncil's finance committee, says it is oftendifficult to determine what the council should setaside money for. Neither the Ivy Council trip orthe random acts of kindness program used all themoney that was allotted for them, but the leftovermoney cannot be used until next fall.
"The random acts of kindness [bill] is toughbecause you want students to be appreciative ofstaff," Schwartz says. "But do we have to do itusing $350? I'm not so sure."
But Schwartz defends the council's decision tosend delegates to the Ivy Council, explaining thatthose meetings help Harvard's councilrepresentatives see how other schools get thingsdone.