Michael Herbert ’16 will be next year’s Yale College Council president after defeating Leah Motzkin ’16 by 104 votes in a runoff election.
After leading the general election by 44 votes, Herbert extended his margin in the runoff election, capturing 1205 votes to Motzkin’s 1101 votes, and winning with 52.5 percent of the total ballots cast for candidates. The runoff was held online from 9 a.m. on Tuesday to 9 p.m. on Wednesday and showed a decline in voter turnout with 2306 total votes cast — 341 fewer votes than in the election that ended Friday night.
“I am very pleased, I am very excited,” Herbert said. “Obviously this in and of itself accomplishes nothing, but there has been a clear statement from the student body that they want a YCC that does not deal with day-to-day issues that marginally improve student life, but a YCC that tackles larger issues.”
Herbert ran on a platform of repurposing the YCC, reconfiguring financial aid and reforming Yale’s sexual assault and mental health treatment policies. Although Herbert has not served on the YCC, he said he has demonstrated leadership on campus by founding his own fraternity, serving as vice president of the Saybrook College Council and creating the Facebook group STEM at Yale.
He attributed the success of his campaign to the commitment of his campaign team. He added that his team toned down their outreach efforts on the final day of the runoff due to the campus-wide fatigue he identified among the student body.
“What I suppose it boiled down to is the winning candidate maintained membership in groups that are more easily mobilized,” said Council Elections Commission Chair and current YCC Vice President Kyle Tramonte ’15.
Herbert said his first step as president will be to sit down with the Vice President Maia Eliscovich Sigal ’16 and review applications for YCC executive board positions, including chief of staff, communications director, academics director, student life director, University services director and student organizations director. He added that his first policy issue will be to address how incoming freshmen are taught about sexual misconduct.
“The reality is that we have a bunch of individuals right now on campus who will be incoming freshmen,” Herbert said. “It is important that when they are going through Camp Yale, they will not be equating sexual violence with making someone go to froyo.”
Herbert said he would like to congratulate Motzkin on running a successful campaign and said he is interested in pursuing some of the ideas from her platform, including making YCC representatives responsible for “secondary constituencies,” which may include cultural houses or athletic communities.
Although Motzkin said she was disappointed with the final results, she said she may apply for some other YCC positions and hopes to dedicate her time to different campus pursuits as well next year.
“I am so lucky and thankful for the support I received,” Motzkin said. “No matter what, I am happy I had the experience.”
Both Tramonte and Motzkin noted the small margin of victory in the runoff. A difference of 100 votes is so small that it could come down to four or five effective emails sent to large panlists, Tramonte said. Motzkin said the result serves as a reminder to students that every vote matters.
Both candidates acknowledged that the race had taken a negative tone at times.
Tramonte said with four candidates competing in the general election — which included Sara Miller ’16 and Ben Ackerman ’16 in addition to Herbert and Motzkin — the campus witnessed a rise in negative and aggressive campaign strategies. He added that though penalties were issued by the CEC during the election cycle, he is unable to disclose the details of the cases.
Though Herbert said he is optimistic about creating a unified YCC because a majority of the elected YCC representatives who chose to endorse a presidential candidate expressed support for his campaign, he added that he hopes to address any potential divisiveness on the council directly by sitting down with members, putting aside differences and reminding students about the shared goal to make Yale a better place.
According to the campus-wide email sent by the Yale College Council Wednesday night, there were 71 abstention ballots cast in the runoff, which were not counted towards the total vote or percentages. Herbert said he was satisfied with the low number of abstentions, which he said speaks directly to strength of his message and the commitment of his supporters.
The new board and Council’s term will begin May 8.