By: Avi Strauss  | 

Fall Wilf Student Council Elections Under Way as Full Election Results to be Released for the First Time

With the onset of the fall student council elections on October 24th on the Wilf campus, the uptown student body is gearing up for its first election since the passage of three amendments to the student constitution last spring. This election marks the formal implementation of two of those amendments, the addition of a PR Secretary to the Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY) board and the requirement for the canvassing committee to release the vote totals for each candidate. Last semester, in a test of undergraduate student civics, the Office of Student Life defied a Student Court decision which determined the amendment did in fact apply to the spring election, the same election in which the amendment was passed.

Six student council positions are up for grabs in this election, an unusually high number for a fall semester. The glut of vacancies is attributable to several circumstances, including the creation of the aforementioned PR secretary position, and the absence of candidates or successful write-ins for the positions of Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) Vice President of Clubs, junior class representative, and SOY’s JSS representative.

The other two positions up for election are Sophomore and Freshmen Class Representative, which are the standard fall semester positions, available mainly to First Time on Campus (FTOC) students.

Currently, however, two of those positions (Freshman Representative and JSS representative) have no declared candidates. These positions can be filled by write-in candidacies, should a write-in receive a minimum of 20 votes and the highest write-in total.

While it is unclear the last time so many positions were up for election in the fall, it is clear the six positions up for grab is the highest total in the last five years.

Last semester, passage of the amendment requiring the Canvassing Committee, which runs student elections, to disclose details of the election results sparked controversy when students insisted the language of the amendment included the election (spring 2017) in which it was ratified. However, the Canvassing Committee understood the amendment as applying to future elections and not the election in the spring and simply released the winning candidates, as it had done in the past.

This ambiguity and confusion led senior David Rubinstein, Senior News Editor of The Commentator at the time and current Managing Editor of The Commentator, to challenge the Canvassing Committee in the Student Court, the relatively obscure, five member panel of upperclassman appointed by the YSU president charged with interpreting the student constitution and ruling on constitutional disputes between students.

While the court sided with Rubinstein, compelling the Canvassing Committee to disclose the full election results, ultimately the Office of Student Life declined to release vote totals for each candidate. The OSL, which was the only entity in possession of the full results of the election, said it would do so in all future elections, contravening the Student Court’s decision.   

Nonetheless, of the seven candidates currently running for a position, five were unaware that the per-candidate vote totals would be released after the election as a result of last semester’s push for greater electoral transparency. The candidates’ unfamiliarity with the new rule is due to the fact that the Wilf Student Constitution has yet to be updated to reflect the amendments.

Of those candidates, some expressed concern for the change. “It’d definitely be embarrassing to get blown out,” said Akiva Clair, a candidate for the SOY PR Secretary position.

Daniel Ferber, a candidate for Sophomore Class Representative, echoed that sentiment when commenting “It can definitely be awkward if someone only gets a few votes.”

Both candidates affirmed that they would have run for their respective positions even if they had known about the impending election disclosures prior to announcing their candidacies.

In order to avoid conflicts similar to those that sparked the court case last semester, the OSL turned over control of the election program used for student council elections to the student run Canvassing Committee.

“The Canvassing Committee now oversees all aspects of the election process, including the decision to fully disclosure of all results. How and when the results are communicated to the student body will be their call,” said OSL Director Josh Weisberg and Director of Student Events Linda Stone in a joint statement to The Commentator.

That determination will be made following this coming Tuesday’s election, which will determine the rest of student council for this academic year. In this regard, the OSL was hopeful for a successful year, no matter the outcome or the disclosed results.

“We see every day the important role that student government plays in creating a campus environment reflective of our diverse student community. We look forward to continuing on this positive path, supporting and working alongside all Student Council members.”