Uncontested YSAC races raise questions

Thanks to the new student activities fee, the Yale Student Activities Committee this year is expected to have thousands of additional dollars at its disposal for the first time. But during elections last week for representatives’ seats on the committee, seven out of the 12 available positions went uncontested.

Only Davenport, Jonathan Edwards, Berkeley, Branford and Morse colleges had contested campaigns.

In its second year as an independent elected body, YSAC remains connected in the minds of many students with its former parent organization, the Yale College Council. In 2003, YSAC, then a YCC sub-committee, split from the council to put more focus on campus activities. YSAC runs Spring Fling, the fall concert, the Winter Ball and other recreational activities. Last year, YSAC also added the Winter Arts Festival, which showcases arts at Yale, to its roster.

Despite these important responsibilities, YSAC has yet to garner the competitive races and aggressive campaigning that characterize the YCC, which last week had only two uncontested races. In part, the apparent lack of competition for YSAC seats may be due to the fact that many students remain unsure of the activities committee’s specific function. While most students said they are aware that YSAC is somehow related to the YCC, many, like Josh Starr ’06, are confused about its purpose.

“It’s either the one that funds publications or puts on events like Spring Fling, but I don’t know,” Starr said.

And Starr is not the only puzzled student. Victoria Nelson ’07 assumed that YSAC and the student activities fee were somehow related, but was not entirely sure of the connection between the two.

“I don’t really know, that’s why I waived the fee,” she said.

YSAC chair Jackie Carter ’07 acknowledged that there is some confusion among students about the committee.

“I think most people know what YCC is, and that it has an activities committee, but I don’t know how many people know the specifics of how it’s related,” she said.

But those involved with the committee said publicity is not at fault for either the uncontested elections or students’ apparent lack of knowledge about YSAC.

YCC Vice President Marissa Brittenham ’07 said although the YCC and YSAC each have a “different flavor,” the recruiting tactics for the two groups are the same. In order to attract candidates, both the YCC and YSAC send e-mails and conduct a joint informational session, Brittenham wrote in an e-mail.

In general, YCC President Steven Syverud ’06 said, YSAC tends to attract different types of leaders than the YCC. YSAC campaigns tend to be less political, since candidates are not necessarily attempting to rise in the political hierarchy of the Yale College Council, he said.

Both Syverud and Brittenham said they do not see it as cause to worry that few candidates emerge in YSAC elections. Both attribute this not only to the youth of the organization, but also to the fact that many of the candidates were incumbents who had performed well in the past year. As a result, they were already well known, and many students did not want to run against them, Syverud said.

Moreover, voter turnout for YSAC elections was nearly the same as for YCC. This is largely due to the fact that both elections are conducted on the same Web site, Brittenham wrote in the e-mail, so students voting for one committee often vote for the other.

“In some uncontested YSAC elections, there were almost as many voters as there were in the contested YCC races for that same college,” Brittenham wrote in an e-mail. “It often depends on the publicity that the candidates put into the campaign as to how many people vote.”

In spite of the large number of uncontested elections, Carter remains confident about YSAC.

“We’re find that the people running are people who really want to do it, [who] put in energy and enthusiasm,” Carter said. “They run because they are excited about student activities in particular. [We] get a lot done with lots of energy in the group.”

Brittenham, also positive, said the future of the YSAC lies in continuing past events and in innovation.

“This year, there is a lot of hope for YSAC,” Brittenham said.

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