Student Council Establishment Candidates Dominate Wilf Campus Presidential Elections, Electoral Process Met with Criticism
Undergraduate voters elected next year’s student council representatives on Thursday, May 5, in what is seen as a vote of confidence in the establishment candidates.
Shua Brick was elected president of Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY), Jacob Herenstein as president of Yeshiva Student Union (YSU), and Tzvi Levitin as president of Yeshiva College Student Union (YCSA). All three presidents-elect serve as vice presidents of their respective councils this year. No incumbent ran in the Sy Syms Student Council men’s presidential race, which was won by Akiva Koppel.
Two other student council candidates elect will be returning in the Fall, bringing their experience with them. Both Aryeh Minsky and Efraim Benscher served this past year as the Junior and Sophomore Class representatives respectively and will be contributing to councils in more senior positions in the coming year. Minsky will be serving as YSU Vice President of Classes while Benscher will be serving as the new SYMS secretary/treasurer.
However, many other races saw fresh faces win their right to serve on student Council. Incoming SOY Vice Presidents Dovid Simpser, Yehuda Avner (MYP), Joseph Aronoff (SBMP), Aryeh Laufer (IBC) and Noah Markovitch (JSS) will all be bringing fresh perspectives to the council governing the Yeshiva aspects of student life. This may be particularly important given the contentious nature of this year’s election and the campus discussions about inclusion and unity across the different morning programs.
Simpser shed light on how the election process and election this year will shape his participation in the council next year: “If there is anything elections have shown me most it is that our Yeshiva is very divided, whether by hashkafot or values, and that needs to change. It’s not just about actions, and it’s not just about words, but it definitely is about the feeling that people get while being here. I’m here to make sure that everyone feels that they are an integral part of our community.”
Vice President of IBC-elect Aryeh Laufer said that he’s “happy to get to work improving the program for everyone” and stressed that “true change comes from the grassroots. Anything we accomplish will come with the help and support of fellow students who join in the effort to create a diverse educational program and a more unified community.”
On YSU, Herenstein and Minsky will be joined Raffi Wiesen, elected to be YSU Vice President of Clubs.
YCSA may have had the most peculiar election. For the second year in a row, the YCSA Vice President position was uncontested, resulting in lone candidate Joey Jubas winning the position. The position of YCSA Secretary/Treasurer started election day without any candidates, leading to a write-in battle to fill the position. In order for a write-in candidate to win, per the election rules, he must garner at least 20 students to vote in person in the Office of Student Life, and the highest number of votes, should multiple candidates pass the 20-vote threshold. Ultimately, Marty Spiewak was elected.
YCSA President-elect Levitin expressed his hope for next year: “I'm so excited to work hard next year to make sure YC students have a voice in their education, and I can't wait to work with the fantastic presidents of the other councils to make YU a place where every student feels they belong.”
In addition to Koppel and Benscher, Binyamin Zirman was elected to the SYMS council as Vice President. Koppel said he is “very much looking forward to strengthening the ties between the YC and Syms administration” as president next year.
Despite the hope that new governments can portend, many were unhappy with the electoral process. Calls for more transparency, especially in the election results, were heard from several standpoints.
Yair Strachman, a Yeshiva College junior who has been involved in multiple political campaigns, also thought disclosing the electoral data would help understand trends in student attitudes. Particularly in a year with some divisive contests, “the lack of transparency on behalf of the Election Committee prevents us from truly knowing the details of the election results or trends in student preferences.”
Yaakov Sultan, a senior majoring in political science, expressed deep frustration with the fact that ballot tallies are not announced. “For people like myself, who plan on going into politics and running a campaign, not releasing results is detrimental to my career, let alone to transparency and honesty in the university. This is especially at a time when the student body is frustrated by a complete lack of transparency,” he said. Mr. Sultan was a candidate for president of YCSA last year.
Mr. Sultan also thought that there are serious problems with the rules governing the campaigns and the way the campaigns are conducted. “There are less than 3 days of campaigning,” he noted. “And what's a campaign - some signs and begging people to sign up and vote on election day, bribing otherwise disinterested people with orange juice, Dunkin’ Donuts and cholent?”
Etan Bardash, Chair of the Canvassing Committee, which oversees and regulates the entire campaign and electoral process, declined to comment.
Breaking from the hubbub about the form of the elections, Yakov Ellenbogen, a junior in Yeshiva College, said that he doesn’t think anything will change. “I voted,” he said. “I think that people should care about student government, but in practice, I didn’t notice any substantive changes between last year and this year, and I don’t expect to next year.”
All in all, with the elections settled, the future council members will be gearing up for next year when they hope to bring the plans and proposals of their candidacies to fruition.