The Race for Student Government 2018
Submitted by Naomi Stanway, Village Fellow 2017
September 28, 2017
Arguably the most fun part of my job is the time I spend serving as the Student Government Advisor. Last year, the members of Student Government (SG) 2016 worked with a team of staff, including department heads and our Village and Executive Directors, to completely reorganize and redefine the role SG plays in the day-to-day functioning of the Village. After many, many, many long hours and one particularly memorable and rewarding video call with the ASYV Board, we authored a Constitution, created impressive official titles, formalized the election process, and created two new positions for underclass students to ensure representation for the younger grades. The President and Vice President now had a full cabinet to work with, including a Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Minister of Culture, Ministers of Communications, Education, Foreign Affairs, two Ministers of Health and Wellness (one male and one female), Minister of Student Initiatives, and two Junior Ministers (again, one of each gender).
As per the Constitution, we held elections in mid-September and the student body chose twelve new representatives, who have spent the past year working hard to develop their leadership skills in order to advocate for their peers. SG 2017 was an incredible team, with leaders from different grades, families, and combinations. While we had perfect gender balance in SG 2017, we wanted to make sure that we were intentionally empowering our female students to run for the top two positions.
In order to combat this challenge, SG 2017 debated heavily. How can we ensure gender balance in leadership without skewing the voting process? We certainly didn’t want to create any policies that would allow staff to override the votes of the students, but we realized that simply encouraging girls to run isn’t an effective and sustainable solution. Finally, we landed upon instating mandatory running mates. Candidates for President and Vice President would need to run together, instead of independently, and the pairs would be required to be co-ed. By requiring partners, we hoped to make running for President and Vice President less intimidating for both our boys and our girls. The rest of the positions would remain as is (for now) which would allow students who didn’t want to run as a team to run independently. We wrote an amendment to the Constitution, held Town Hall meetings, and wrote newsletter articles to announce the change to the student body, and crossed our fingers to see what would happen next.
What happened next was incredible. Our Junior Ministers decided to run for President and Vice President, and not long after they submitted their applications, a second team applied to challenge them. In all, I received 38 applications for the twelve Minister positions. We had 17 female applicants and nine applications from first-year students competing for the two Junior Minister positions. A campaign rally was organized, and the students spent three hours on a Friday morning listening to their brothers and sisters trying to earn their vote. Ballots were printed and distributed to the Mamas, who in turn distributed them to the students.
As the ballots came in, the Cousins were standing by, ready to count. We spent about three hours furiously tallying the votes, noticing interesting trends along the way. While any student election – really any election – is at least partially a popularity contest, we noticed that students didn’t necessarily vote for the candidates we perceived to be the most popular. Students voted against their family mates, they voted for students of the opposite gender, and they even abstained from voting for some positions. In other words, the voting trends showed us that our students had actually put quite a bit of thought and intention into who they wanted to choose as their representatives. By the end of the night, we had 10 clear winners, and two incredibly close calls – so close that we double counted just to be sure, only to discover that one candidate had legitimately won by a single vote. We swore ourselves to secrecy until the official announcement, and tried not to accidentally give anything away to the incredibly stressed out candidates and their supporters.
The next day, I assembled the Ministers of 2017 to the microphone in the Dining Hall so they could announce the students who would be taking over their positions. Amidst tears, shouting, applause, and copious amounts of praying, the twelve winners were announced and congratulated.
The Ministers of 2017 held their breaths as the current President and Vice President announced their replacements – they had been campaigning incredibly hard to keep our Junior Ministers in power for next year to ensure continuity and sustainably. When Fabrice and Sabine were announced the winners, the Dining Hall erupted with ear-splitting joy – my co-advisor mused that he had never seen someone SO happy for another person. The Ministers of 2018 accepted their congratulations and assembled for their first-ever working lunch as official representatives of the student body. While we only have seven weeks left of the school year, this team of student leaders are setting goals and working hard to gather feedback and advocate for their peers – and they are only just getting started!