By the time polls open on Thursday morning, half of the elected positions for the Yale College Council’s executive board this year will have already been decided. Though the saturated fields of presidential and vice presidential candidates have forced those nine candidates to develop in-depth platforms and to defend their positions against public scrutiny, the same cannot be said of the two candidates in uncontested races for finance director and events director.
So in lieu of throwing our support behind either candidate, we will use this space to endorse something more important: contested elections.
The News met with both Zach Murn ’17, who is running for finance director, and Lauren Sapienza ’18, who is running for events director, and were disappointed with the lack of preparation and energy both candidates brought to the table.
Though Murn, who will be a senior next year, appears earnest in his desire to serve the Yale community, his dearth of new ideas and inadequate knowledge of YCC finances raises concerns. His platform, seen only on his underpublicized candidate Facebook page, consists of three, one-sentence bullet points that are heavy on buzzwords and light on details. He appeared apathetic about critical policy measures, such as the student activities fee, and when pressed about whether he would support raising this fee further, he failed to take a decisive stance, simply stating, “Maybe we can increase it again.” When questioned about specific budget expenses, such as the Harvard-Yale dance party in Commons, Murn incorrectly stated that the event occurs every year (in fact, it is biennial) and did not have a reasonable explanation for why Spring Fling accounts for over three-fourths of the YCC’s total budget. With over $360,000 of students’ money on the line, we expected a bit more from Murn than memes about Harvard.
It’s clear that Sapienza, who has served on the YCC Events Committee since her freshman year and currently serves as the deputy events director, will bring plenty of experience to the events director role. We commend her for taking the time to outline on her website some of the new traditions she aims to establish on campus, such as a “So You Think Yale Can Dance” competition or a Crown Street Block Party with local food trucks. However, her responses to some of our questions gave us serious pause. When asked how she would address scheduling conflicts between Spring Fling and athletic competitions, Sapienza said she was “exploring other venues” (but failed to list any alternate locations) and then suggested potentially moving the event to a Sunday, which would likely interfere with religious observances on Old Campus. After pressing her on how she would have resolved the controversy in February regarding the event title, “Fat Woads,” which was later renamed by the YCC to “NOLA Woads,” Sapienza displayed a lack of foresight when she said she did not expect the title to cause such backlash and failed to explain how she would have handled the situation had the decision been in her hands. Though we support Sapienza’s commitment to fostering campus conversation through events such as her proposed “Table Talks,” we believe a contested race would have pushed her to grapple with the weightier responsibilities of YCC events director.
The best races are never run alone. We call for contested elections for all YCC positions, to ensure that candidates remain accountable to the voices of students. There’s a reason students often feel estranged from the bureaucracy of the YCC — and having candidates already predetermined for a position on the council only exacerbates that divide. With less choice and fewer ideas, it is ultimately the campus that suffers most. Whether you check the box for Murn or Sapienza on Thursday, or choose to abstain, the outcome will not change. Let us hope this is not the case in future elections.