Midway through the three-day voting process for the Yale College Council leadership, students had mixed reactions to this year’s elections: Most said they will vote and think the council helps facilitate communication between the student body and the administration, but some complained about candidates’ unrealistic platforms and others expressed doubt that the outcome will be significant.
Many students said they think voting is an important and easy way to have an impact on campus life, but several said they do not think it matters which candidates are eventually elected because the candidates’ platforms and qualifications are similar. Still, YCC President Steven Syverud ’06 said that by voting, students can have a significant impact on how the council is run next year.
“I think who is on the Executive Board makes a huge difference from year to year in both the vision of the council and the execution of that vision,” he said. “I think the process of voting in a YCC election is the process of figuring out if you agree with where people stand and whether or not they have the ability to execute all the issues they talk about.”
Some students said they do not plan to vote at all in this year’s elections because they do not think the YCC has a major impact on student life. Still, most said they plan on voting and think it is important for students to show a basic level of involvement in the undergraduate community by participating in the election process.
“A level of student participation is very important in this type of thing,” Andrew Beaty ’07 said. “If you have less than a quarter of the student population voting, that is a poor representation of what the student body wants.”
Andy Levine ’08 said he voted even though he does not care much about the outcome of the elections, because it is easy to vote.
“I don’t think it’s important to vote, but it’s not that hard to do it,” Levine said. “No one is really doing something different from anyone else.”
Similarly, Beaty said he thinks the YCC will continue to function effectively regardless of who is elected to lead it, because most of the candidates are qualified for the positions they seek. The main differences between candidates are the issues they focus on, he said.
“As long as you have someone who is confident and responsive … I feel like approximately the same things would happen,” he said. “But people always have their pet projects. Depending on who you vote for, some things might get changed more.”
A number of students said they are turned off by candidates who aspire to make unrealistic changes or appear to be running for office out of personal ambition rather than genuine interest improving student life.
Howard Scott ’07 said he thinks a number of candidates are proposing changes over which the YCC has no control.
“A lot of times they ask for things that the school administration decides on,” he said. “Maybe they do think they can change them, but some of the things that they are asking for, like more policing for example, [the YCC] can’t really do anything about.”
Eric Kafka ’08 said he thinks some candidates seem too concerned with creating an election persona and not concerned enough with real issues.
“I do not like candidates who appear to be using the YCC as a stepping stone for future political ambitions,” he said. “I want someone who cares about the Yale community and who is doing it for the right reasons.”
Kafka said he looked at how experienced each candidate is and what issues they champion when deciding whom to support.
Eleanor Millman ’07 said she plans to vote for Stephen Fedele ’07, also known as RSteve, because he makes light of the YCC and the election process. She said she thinks many of those running for office take themselves too seriously, considering the council’s actual influence on campus.
“Like some Yalies, I feel like the YCC accomplishes very little,” Millman said. “In general my impression is that some of the candidates are running more for the ego boost of the position as opposed to actually caring about their fellow students.”
Voting students said they are basing their decisions on a mix of three factors: candidacy statements, recommendations from friends and personal interaction with the candidates.
Noah Mamis ’08 said he based his votes on the recommendations of a friend of his on the YCC as well as his personal knowledge of the candidates. These two factors provided him with more information about the candidates than he could glean from their statements online, he said.
“The candidacy statements are all designed to get us to vote for them without giving us any actual insights into their individual character,” Mamis said.
Nisha Tamhankar said she is sending e-mails in support of vice-presidential candidate Steven Engler ’07 in the hopes of garnering votes for him.
“The candidate happens to be a good friend of mine, and I think he would do a good job,” she said. “If someone feels very strongly about a certain issue or candidate … it’s important that those opinions come through.”
But Meijin Bruttomesso ’08 said she does not think e-mail campaigns, fliers in dining halls or personal visits from candidates are as effective as personal statements.
“In the end you have to go read their statements or know them really well to know their true intentions,” she said.
Voting began on YaleStation on Sunday at 9 a.m. and will conclude Tuesday at 9 p.m.