The undergraduate council's popular elections for president and vice-president should be taking place within the next two weeks before winter break. However, the council has once again postponed the elections. Although elections should not be rushed, the council should be well enough prepared to hold them by now. After all, the amendments were called for last spring.
The council seems to have lost momentum since last year on this issue. The turnover in the council this year resulted in more than half the council being composed of new members. As a result, popular elections no longer seem to be as high a priority. To retain any legitimacy in the eyes of students, the council needs to hold elections soon and resolve all the key issues that are holding it up.
"We wanted to introduce a package early and have elections in December, but there are so many issues: who can run, when we have them, how to administer them, how to enforce spending caps. We don't want to run into this without discussing them," said council vice-president Brian R. Blais '97. Discussing each of these issues is important to ensure that the elections are efficient. But the more time council members spend in discussion, the more their constituencies lose interest in the council altogether.
In the past, the president and vice-president had always been elected within the council, without the involvement of the student body. Popular elections will put students more in touch with the council. Presidential elections are always characterized by a larger voter turnout and less political apathy. With campaigns run about issues, the council has a wonderful method of determining student concerns and interests throughout the College.
The council should be quick to capitalize on student interest in these elections. However, there seems to be some inconsistency within the council. While an unofficial committee has been formed, some members insist that critics have never attended meetings of the informal committee to incorporate popular elections. Other members believe these meetings have not been publicized enough. Council members need to get their acts together and move on these popular elections before students forget what popular elections are.
While the elections cannot be held in the next two weeks, they need to be held at a suitable time. Both this semester's reading period and April of next year have been suggested, when students are at their busiest. If the council really wants popular elections to motivate the student body to participate, it needs to hold elections at students' convenience and not only at their own.
"Elections should be in December, and that option has been subtlely usurped," said former council vice-president Justin C. Label '97. "Everyone running for president this semester said this was a top priority and needed to be taken care of in the first couple of weeks. It's clear the council is not taking this as a priority."
The council should accord direct popular elections greater importance. These elections could make a much larger component of the student body heard through its votes. It could also add new legitimacy to the council in the eyes of students. The student body can make an impact on the highest levels of the council directly and perhaps feel that the the council is more of its own voice to the administration. The the council's image can only improve with popular elections.