Under the guidance of a newly ratified constitution, Yale-NUS students will host their first student government elections on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5. And with campaigns underway, candidates are trying to craft the identity of a school only four semesters old.
Yale-NUS’s first student constitution, which was ratified on Nov. 21 by roughly 244 affirmative votes, representing 76.7 percent of the Yale-NUS student body, outlined the procedures for putting together an elected student body. This new student government will include representatives from each class and each of the three residential colleges, in addition to four “representatives-at-large,” who lack any particular affiliation.
Speaking on behalf of the student-led Elections Committee, Jason Carlo Carranceja YNUS ’18 said speeches for these elections began after students confirmed their candidacies last week. There are 21 student candidates in total for next week’s elections, for only 11 spots.
Campaign speeches and debates will take place at a forum on Jan. 31. Carranceja also said this first student government will have unique responsibilities, such as organizing school-wide discussions about creating an honor code and the move into Yale-NUS’s new campus this fall.
“The very first student government will have the additional task to shape the way the student government, student body and administration interact,” Carranceja said. “Many roles and powers are yet to be defined and so it will be up to this first group of students to negotiate them.”
Carranceja said that though the student government elections will be almost entirely student-orchestrated, the Dean of Students’ Office has been advising the Elections Committee.
Yale-NUS Student Life Manager Chris O’Connell and Yale-NUS Dean’s Fellow Daniel Gordon said they have played a minimal role in planning the elections.
Students interviewed said solidifying school identity should be one of the primary tasks of the new student government. Jolanda Nava YNUS ’17 said she believes the student government will be tasked with developing a cohesive school-wide identity, in addition to cultivating identities for each of the three residential colleges.
Similarly, Raeden Richardson YNUS ’17 said he thinks cultivating a college-wide identity that underscores administrative transparency should be a priority for the new student government.
But David Chappell YNUS ’18, who is currently a candidate for residential college representative, said he felt the campaign process lacked excitement.
“Other than some cheesy posters in lifts, there isn’t a huge election process in the community, at least in my opinion,” he said.
Chappell also said because he initially opposed ratifying the constitution, he was reluctant to run for a position in the upcoming elections. The constitution was drafted by only a small number of Yale-NUS students, Chappell said, and did not adequately represent the views of the entire student body. But after he was asked by many of his peers, he agreed to throw his hat in the ring.
Because Yale-NUS is so young, he said it will still be important to work within the guidelines of the ratified constitution to channel feedback from students to the administration.
“I want the student government to be as effective and representative as possible, and the constitution in the form it was last semester was not conducive to that,” he said.
Similarly, Nur Qistina Binte Abdul Wahid YNUS ’17, who is a class representative candidate, said she thinks the student government will help Yale-NUS tackle one of its most significant challenges: facilitating open communication between the student body and the administration. To this end, she said she thinks the student government’s required general assembly meetings, where students will raise issues and concerns, will help facilitate this dialogue.
Richardson said it is also important for students to remember their power in shaping the future of Yale-NUS with these elections.
“We need reminders of the gravity of what we are doing, of how the decisions we make now will echo through the generations of students following in our path,” he said.