Yale-NUS Student Government Elections: Why the apathy?
Story by Elaine Li News Editor | Photo credit to Eduardo Lage Otero
In the most recent Yale-NUS Student Government elections, despite repeated deadline extensions, 112 out of 126 nominees turned down their nomination. Students interviewed suggest the general disinterest level in the Student Government was the result of an unwillingness to commit, problems caused by size of the student body and ambivalence towards the Student Government’s role.
The Constitution called for fairness and transparency in the elections process. As a result, the newly formed elections committee utilized an open and anonymous nomination system, and actively reached out to the student population. Nevertheless, few students seemed to be actively engaged in the elections.
Students list various reasons for rejecting their nominations.
“I didn’t even know I was nominated … because I didn’t follow [the elections],” Zhu Fangchen ’19 said. Others chose to ignore it. Cliona Yong ’18, said she chose to ignore her nomination because “I know someone did it to play a joke on me.”
Time commitment seems to be a prevalent issue for many nominees who chose not to run. Saza Faradilla ’18 said that she wouldn’t be able to give the Student Government the dedication it deserved due to her existing commitments. “I have too much on my plate this semester, but I really appreciate those who are devoting their time and energy to serve the community,” Anne Caroline (Kei) Franklin ’17 said.
Others expressed concern about their own leadership potential and ability to serve the school. “I’d much rather play a passive role than one that is actively inadequate,” Vivyan Yeo ’19 said.
Elizabeth Heng ‘18, who likewise rejected her nomination, said she felt that the Student Government was driven mainly by a select group of students. The rest of the community is passively in support but not passionate enough to contribute their own efforts, she said.
The size of the student body and the platform each student is given seems to play a large role in students’ ambivalence towards the Student Government. Charis Anne Lim ’19, who voted in the elections, said that “since any student in Yale-NUS has so much power in their hands already, it … negates the existence of a government to do things we can do for ourselves.”
Similarly, Franklin said that because students “can walk up to almost any member of the faculty or administration to request a personal meeting, a representative body like Student Government can seem obsolete.”
Even after the student body size increased, the interest and engagement level was lower, according to Ami Firdaus ’17, co-chair of the electoral committee. A lack of competition may also discourage candidates from running, Vincent Lee ’19 said.
“I feel like if some students feel that there is no fight, it might not be worth it to run [for student council].”
The existence of leadership groups and committees calls to question the necessity for an umbrella organization like the Student Government. “I never had the feeling that we need a body of people to speak on our behalf because whenever there was a need for communication with the [administrators], it could easily be achieved by individuals or individual groups,” said Linh Nguyen ’17, a nominee who turned down her nomination.
Of the 14 students who were voted into office, two turned down their position before the Student Government’s inauguration. Thaddeus Cochrane ’19, said: “I feel that the Student Government doesn’t represent the views of the student body, and for me to accept a position on the student council without at least a 50% majority would be in conflict with my goals for reforming the Student Government.” He also expressed concern at the disparity between respect for the Student Government at Yale-NUS and elsewhere. “Where Student Government is a meaningful and rewarding extracurricular at many other colleges, [Yale-NUS] students see it as a chore,” he said.
Firdaus similarly feels that the interest level and engagement in Student Government at our school is significantly lower than in other institutions, such as the National University of Singapore (NUS). “There is a lot more excitement and interest towards the NUSSU [NUS Students’ Union] ]elections as compared to our own.” He attributed this to more politicking and larger visibility in a large university.
On ways of resolving the problems Student Government faces, students suggest that promoting awareness of the organization as a centralizing force as well as giving the College the time to grow and mature will help to increase interest and engagement.
Yale-NUS College ratified the new Yale-NUS College Student Government Constitution on the 25th and 26th of Nov. 2015.