A record 20 first-years are running to fill four open spots on Student Government’s College Council (CC), the second year in a row interest has increased for the positions.
Almost a rite off fall quarter-—CC elections will be held this Thursday-—the 20 candidates have left a temporary mark on the school, chalking and posting all over campus in order to gain the votes needed to win the crowded race.
Candidates in the tightly contested election are resorting to both traditional and unconventional campaign tactics to gain an edge.
First-year Angela Wang made a pun on her own name, titling her Facebook support page “A. Wang is a Pillar of Strength” in order to get some laughs and, hopefully, votes. Other jokes are printed on flyers around campus.
First-year Tracy Xu said at a candidate meet-and-greet yesterday she simply decided to chalk outside the Regenstein, noting that, “the letters are bigger than you are.”
What’s also bigger is the class of 2014’s size of 1,414 students, which ORCSA director Sharlene Holly suggested accounts for the increase in candidates. “I think there are also more students interested in SG than in the past...because SG has been strong for several years, and I think that helps position SG as a great organization to be part of,” Holly said in an e-mail.
The race would have been more crowded, according to Holly, who said 25 students originally turned in petitions to run. Five dropped out over the past few days. Last year, there were 19 first-years on the ballot.
But it may be less crowded than it seems, second-year Undergraduate Liaison to the Board of Trustees Frank Alarcon said: “20 people are on the ballot and maybe only two-thirds to one-half really campaign, so the field is a lot narrower than that 20 figure suggests.”
Other candidates are using unconventional means to get votes. Candidate Forrest Scofield uploaded an entire album on Facebook with pictures of fellow students at parties holding up a flyer that reads, “Vote Forrest Scofield.”
“The most important thing is getting your name out there, but chalking and posters are not enough,” Scofield said.
Eric Wessan has attended every single home varsity sports game and led a cheering section in order to advertise his platform of increased school spirit.
Wessan also leads the other candidates in the number of Facebook attendees on his election event, which at the time of publication was 202 attending, 89 maybe attending, and 640 awaiting reply.
While Wessan dominates in attendees, first-year candidate Ben Yu is no stranger to Facebook notoriety: He’s an admin of the “UChicago Class of 2014” group, which has 1,915 members.
Yu became admin of the group as part of a rare but fortunate misunderstanding; another accepted student named Ben Yu was the creator of the group but later accepted a full-ride spot at Harvard and then handed over the reins to the current, other Yu—while the account owner changed, the name on the group didn’t seem any different.
“It became a matter of either I subsume power or people will give me credit anyways,” Yu said, explaining why he chose to run for CC.
Yet some students are choosing not to partake in the campaigning festivities, leaving their fate on CC up to their peers. “I just don’t see the point in all of this,” candidate Andrew Hong said at the meet-and-greet, pointing to fellow candidates’ tables in the main quads, filled with free candy and cupcakes. Hong only had a piece of notebook paper on his table where he had scribbled down his name.
“Statistically speaking, it's all about name recognition and it depends where you are on the ballot,” Hong said. With a list 20 students long, Hong is hoping for a good spot on the list.
But Holly notes that candidates often help out with Student Government (SG) regardless of wether they win or lose. “[There] seem to be more and more examples of students who do not win an elected position who then stay engaged in SG,” she said. “Which means not only does SG gain four new, excited students, but actually more than that when they stay engaged in SG in other ways.”
With only four spots available, SG is hoping to harness the enthusiasm from all the candidates and find opportunities for those who don’t win. “We’re organizing action groups that focus on certain interactions,” Alarcon said, noting the new SG initiatives will work on issues like student discounts and SG forums. Alarcon hopes it will be a way to keep students involved in SG “win or lose.”
Voting for first-years opened today at 9 a.m at sg.uchicago.edu and closes at 5 p.m on Thursday.
-additional reporting by Asher Klein