Yale-NUS Student Government Elections: A Problem with a Fresh Start
Story by Enkhzul Badral, Managing Editor
In January and February of 2015, Yale-NUS College had its first Student Government elections. I published an article entitled, “Embarrassing Election Campaigns Endanger Our Future.” It was a call for candidates to have more serious campaigns; a call to put our best foot forward, so to speak. While my last article was a criticism of election campaign posters specifically, this year I’m concerned with candidates’ experience and competency.
We’ve now had two governments to learn and grow from, so I have the highest expectations for its third iteration. However, I hesitated earlier today when I logged into Canvas to cast my vote. This year presents a unique set of problems for the incoming Council to navigate, and the current campaign period signals a rocky transition.
Under the operating principle of ‘Effectiveness’ on their website: “Student Government shall address all feedback received, and will vigorously represent student concerns to all administrative arms.” A necessary condition of receiving feedback to address is having a student body who trusts that the Council will be effective and has confidence that relevant issues will be resolved. I hesitate because out of the 18 students running for Council, more than half are first-years. Hence, it’s likely that the majority of those in Government will not have had past experience working with the Yale-NUS administration. They will not have sufficient experience as students of Yale-NUS to inform their actions. I share the same worry as Regina Marie Lee ’18, outgoing President of Yale-NUS Student Government: “[First years] may not have their finger on the pulse of what matters to students.”
The election forum held on Aug. 25 (which can be viewed here) gave candidates a platform to clarify their visions. Three candidates knew they would not be able to make the forum and thus recorded a video in place of speaking at the event. Another five candidates did not show at all—all members of the Class of 2020. Tee Zhuo ’18, a member of the first Yale-NUS Student Government and Convenor of the Constitution Review Committee said that “I think there is a higher expectation that you should attend the forum if you have only been in the school for three weeks and you wish to let the student populace know what kind of candidate you are.”
Another concern following the forum is that newer candidates were not adequately familiar with the content of the constitution. Some suggestions made by candidates were redundant and already accounted for; other candidates did not know the number of branches within the Government.
Ideally, there would be a proportionate representation of candidates from each class. In this scenario, the student body’s confidence in the student government would be markedly higher than in reality because there would be a more diverse and exhaustive experience to draw from. But given our ostensibly first-year dominated government, we will need to rely heavily on students who already understand how the school operates. While the lack of knowledge about the Constitution, poor forum turnout, and vague campaign platforms give me pause, they ultimately don’t undermine my confidence in the first-year members as long as the leadership within student government is held by upperclassmen.
In the next two days before the first round of elections ends, take some time to make your own decision about who has the most relevant experience. If you don’t know, highly consider the ‘no vote’ option rather than arbitrarily ranking people you haven’t even met. And please, don’t let voter fatigue settle in before you make an informed decision about Vice-President and President.
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