Mar

3

Engineers hold elections too!

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Update:    ESC Constitutional Review is underway! An ardent and opinionated public of record numbers (four people) was just turned away from the meeting as the ESC enforced its closed doors policy. Junior Class Representative Samantha John vocalized an appeal to overlook the closed doors policy for the discussion on internal elections, which she viewed as “pertinent to the student body, not just the council.” Liz Strauss reminded us decisively that under constitutional law, she had no authority to make a meeting open, only to make it closed. There is drama in the Satow Room tonight.


mick

Intrepid ESC Correspondent Tony Gong inquires into the mysteries of flyer-less class council elections.

 

In case you haven’t heard enough about politics lately, the annual debate over the Engineering Student Council executive board process, an internal system by which the council elects itself, has been rekindled in light of ESC’s ongoing constitutional review. But this time, people are angry. And writing articles.

The issue became active again last Friday, with a comprehensive opinion piece against internal elections. But it didn’t end there – three ESC members dramatically countered with their equally lengthy defense of internal elections, which printed in the same issue of Spec. Overall, engineers wrote more in a day than they had in six years, so everyone took the weekend off and did some math.

The arguments for holding internal elections primarily tout the practicality of the current system: “It is a fact that ESC gets the job done by making sure that kid gets to do his or her job…Internal elections help ensure that the elected officials are the ones who will put the students before their future jobs.” ESC gets the job done, indeed.

However, Samantha John, SEAS ’09 and a co-writer of the article against the current system, doesn’t believe unqualified candidacy would be a problem, even with direct elections. She cites the non-executive board candidates of ESC, which are, in fact, directly elected, as evidence: “The ESC general elections for the rest of the council usually attracts pretty solid people…Nobody in ESC is really in it as much for their resume or career because if you’re in SEAS and you really care about your career you probably need to go to the library.”

Moreover, David Albert, SEAS ’09, draws the important distinction between a club and the ESC: “Just as the leadership of the College Democrats is responsible to the members of their club, so is the ESC responsible to the SEAS student body…The leadership of the Dems is directly elected by their constituency. The E-board of the ESC should be elected in the same way.”

Have something to say? ESC strongly encourages you to either e-mail [email protected] with thoughts, or attend the ESC meeting tonight 10:15 pm in the Satow Room in Lerner, where the ESC is holding its amendment review on the matter.  Slide rules required.

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28 Comments

  1. what's another name  

    for online voting?

    e-lections!

  2. ...

    bwog, you should look into how a referendum happened 2 years ago where seas voted to make it internal... however, the referendum was interpreted as non-binding by Dan Okin since turnout was low

    • fuck Dan Okin

      The ESC interpretation was that because a majority of only 20% of the SEAS population voted for direct elections, that less than 20% of SEAS voted for direct elections and over 80% was either in support of internal elections or neutral to the point of not showing up to vote (online) for direct elections.

      The fact of the matter is that engineers feel so disconnected from ESC that very few vote online in ESC elections. This disconnect is a result of internal elections and the ESC Exec Board being a body largely foreign to most engineers. That's why no referendum will ever result in internal elections being overturned by a "50% of all of SEAS, not 50% of voting SEAS" criterion.

      • Dan Okin

        So, as the "infamous" Dan Okin most people refer to on this blog, I feel required to respond to these comments in some marginal way because they are all, in my opinion, off on what happened.

        So, first, to all of you - straight up democracy does not always imply the most perfect form of government. As #12 has said, lots of governments around the world elect their parties, they then elect the leaders of those parties. Does that make those governments worse off than the USA? Britain, which does run through the republican system, seems to be functioning just fine and, on some levels, much more adeptly than the US does. However, student government is not country based government, and should be treated on more realistic terms relating to the true impact that it can have.

        To #2 - as I recall, having sat in on those meetings and devising the idea for having a referendum, it was designed to give the student body a direct opportunity to vote on the matter. If I had not created a referendum section that night, the student body would never have had a chance to voice their opinion. I directly regret the referendum material requiring a minimum voting requirement, but it was necessary to have the council pass the resolution. While unrestricted voting would be ideal, a compromise had to be struck to enable a referendum to exist, so I did what I could at the time. Yes, it was not perfect, but at least I can say that I tried.

        To #3 - I hope you know me, because if you don't, coming out strongly against a stranger is just immature. Your point about 80% voting in favor, of the 33% (not 20%, as you state) who voted, is slightly incorrect - 67% voted in favor, 20% against and 13% abstained. Yes, one could do the math and assume that, approximately 77% of those who chose to participate (the 13% who abstain do not participate in the vote and cannot be counted toward one side or the other) did vote in favor of the referendum. However, because it did not meet the council imposed (read: 30 people) requirement, it could not pass. No special reading, no special treatment, just straight up failure by the council's standards.

        Furthermore, #3, your comment that the student body feels so disenfranchised by the ESC because only 33% vote is absurd. I point to last year's elections, where over 51% of the student body voted, as proof that people do spend time to vote for their representatives, even in the absence of an executive board election. Contrast this to the measly 34% that CCSC received and we see that executive board elections does not equal turnout, as has always been professed.

        In the end, the ESC has always striven to be the most representative board that it can be. Will it ever be perfect? Of course not, but then again, nothing ever is. The way the board functions, through parliamentary style elections, is a function of the desire of governance it finds to be most beneficial to the student body. Year after year, you find that ESC members are pushing new policy, innovating new programming and all around trying to serve their student body to the best that they can. This year's current board is an excellent example of that - they stood up to the hunger strikers when all else wouldn't, directly representing their constituency in their time of need. I need only point to CCSC, which took no stand, to show that the direct election of their board did not lead to a better conveyance of their constituency's desire. The ESC, with its internally elected board, did, however, represent engineers well.

        When it comes down to it, we need to remember that it is only student government, and it is as much of a learning experience for the members of the student councils as it is an opportunity for them to improve the school for others. All who are elected donate their time to improve the campus environment for others through hard work and dedication. The difference in election, parliamentary versus democratic, is almost irrelevant as all are attempting to achieve the same goal of improved student life for their constituency.

        • Mr. Seas  

          I agree that anyone who donates his or her time to student councils has a goal of making the university better and the student body happier. However, just because they have richeous goals does not give these people the right to represent the student body. Direct elections is the simplest form of getting consent (and we all know that's sexy) from the people they are claiming to represent. Furthermore, just because they have this goal does not mean they know how to accomplish them or in fact have the "right" goals in mind.

          For example, Jack Mcgourty has a goal of training engineers with real world skills and the other bullshit he professes. However, he fails miserably at his goal. He also has this goal of teaching various computer programs to the first-year engineers. He fails pretty badly at that too. There are many other professors that could do his job (and are actually trained engineers) and would do a much better job, but since his job is not elected, he will not be replaced until he retires. We all suffered and the future generations will suffer due to the lack of free elections.

          Mrs. Seas, want to make out?

          • Whoa Whoa Whoa  

            I question your SEAS-ness because of your direct question to the opposite gender. Every SEAS student knows you'd have to ask if Mrs. SEAS could help you on your problem set, and in 2-3 months, you could be going on a kind-of casual get dinner with friends deal. That's the SEAS way.

        • Anonymous  

          Dan,

          Your comments are very insightful and well written and I wish I had time to respond to them in more detail. Because it is almost 6am, I will only say this: The ESC election process is not the same as a parliamentary one. The prime minister of a parliament is elected by the incoming members of the house (or whatever the representative body is called) from within their ranks. This means that the people have already elected him to the house for the current term. In the ESC, the outgoing members of the Council elect the Executive Board, none of whom are required to have been elected by the student body at this point or at any point previous. In a parliamentary system, the people's voice is recorded for every candidate, and a prime minister cannot be elected without first being voted in by the people. In the ESC, this does not apply.

          • Dan Okin

            David,

            You are correct - I forgot that aspect of the parliamentary system. However, it is rare that someone who is elected to the E-board on ESC has not been elected publicly before, even if it was only once. It is, however, a republican system whereby the publicly elected students act as a voice to appoint their leaders. Again, I don't profess it to be the perfect form of governance, but it does seem to be working for SEAS. I cannot speak to sentiment on campus any more as I am no longer a student there, but I know Liz and she will follow the voice of the constituency to the best of her ability.

            And, for the record, I tried during my time to make those elections direct and believe they should be. That is the reason why the referendum was created. Not as a reason to deflect the idea of having direct elections, but as a way to involve the student body.

            And, #17, if we were saying that, Engineers would come out and elect a brand new board demanding to be treated with respect. The reason why they don't is because the ESC listens to what they have to say and represents their desires in the University forum. We greatly welcome scrutiny because we know that criticism leads to our own personal improvement. Please, keep it coming, but at least make it thoughtful and reasonable. Claiming someone to be the next Mussolini is a scare tactic to get someone to side with you when your argument is weak and unable to hold up on its own accord. It honestly sounds like you're from the College and are just sitting on a moral high horse saying "Democracy is better" to us lowly engineers. Well, we understand the concepts of democracy and have still chosen the system we use. Not everyone has to agree with you to be called equal.

            But, as I said above, it is only student government. Yes, it was something I cared about deeply while a student at SEAS, but that doesn't change the nature of the beast. It is a learning experience for those involved while simultaneously an opportunity to influence the administration to move in directions which mimic student desire. When it comes down to it, that is the power of student government on a grand scale, and nothing more. It works because the administration has come to trust that individuals are correct in their assertions. That kind of trust takes time, many years of commitment, and a honesty and willing to compromise on issues. The ESC has always tried to uphold those standards of commitment, honesty and dedication, and I think that is a hallmark of this year's board even without their direct election.

          • Anonymous  

            Dan,

            The important missing piece is that ESC E-board members are not voted upon by the student body for the same year that they are being elected. It is possible that a former directly elected council member was not reelected or would not be reelected because of some perceived problem with how he did his job. If this person is then elected to the E-board, the will of the student body is certainly not being represented. The important issue is not whether the E-board members have been on ESC in the past. Sometimes this can even be a detriment. What is important is that the student body votes for them in some capacity for the same term that they will be on the E-board.

          • Dan Okin

            David,

            I see the issue you are putting forth - but my question to you is how to reconcile it? What would the intermediate step be to ensure proper representation, and functional elections, while an attempt at putting together a proper public elections timeline is undertaken? I am not unrealistic in saying that I don't think direct elections would happen immediately for the ESC, but small steps toward direct elections will help ensure they happen sooner rather than never. Please email me because I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

          • full disclosure

            plz dan okin.. were *you* ever directly elected to any position at all on the ESC?

          • Dan Okin

            Yep - freshman year I won as VP of my class. I ran for student services representative for my sophomore year and lost in a close race with Dan Gant. After that, I worked w/ ABC and then came back to ESC when asked by Tom Fazzio to replace him as VP Policy.

            That's about as full a disclosure as I can think of. But, did I do so awful a job that it requires justification?

          • seas 07

            yes dan, you did do an awful job.

            and to think that you use winning VP your *frosh* year as your stamp of approval by the people to be council prez your senior year is ridic.

            did you manage to type that with a straight face?

            A) when we voted for you, we didn't know you
            B) when we knew you, we voted for Dan Gant
            C) we were all relieved when you disappeared to ABC and out of ESC
            D) Tom Fazzio brought you back as a fill-in
            E) you became ESC prez when 3/4ths of the student body was never around when you won a popular election
            F) you became ESC prez when 1/2 of the student body wasn't around to see you lose to Dan Gant
            G) finally, what spectator wrote about you during your now glorified run for frosh class VP:

            "007's strategy consisted mostly of vice presidential candidate (and now vice president-elect) Daniel Okin walking around wearing aviator sunglasses. Hell, it worked for Johnny Depp in Blow. And if it works for a millionaire drug lord, dammit, it can work for an ESC candidate too."

            http://www.columbiaspectator.com/node/12728

          • oh for gods sake

            Way to just be an asshole to someone who is trying to have a constructive discussion after people needless insult him.

          • Dan Okin

            First of all, I merely was answering the question if I ever won a direct election. I was not using it as a justification for being elected council president. I just recounted my elections experience to someone who asked a legitimate question. I'm sorry that it seemed to annoy you so much.

            Let's see, how to begin. Have you met me before? Or do you make comments on me based upon your perceived opinion of me? From the sounds of it, you use only public knowledge to try to "insult" me because of your personal opinion. When we were students, did something happen that slighted you in a way that you would have a vendetta against someone and decided to take it out against me? Because it sure seems like that.

            As for your points, you are correct about the percentages of people who were around to vote for me. However, I feel that it is certainly out of proportion to claim that the election of someone through a system they did not create is an invalidation. We have to work with the systems we are presented with and since the only way to become ESC president was through that presented electoral system, it is the path I chose. I have no need to defend myself on my attempts to change the system as I have said myself, and been quoted in saying, that I think direct elections are the better system.

            I do have to call into question your use of the quote from the Spectator to support your point, as it was written when I was a freshman. Alas, if no one knew me, how could they make a legitimate criticism? It just seems like a little ridiculous for you to quote that.

            Either way, I am insulted not by your personal attacks, for I have weathered much worse on this very blog, but by the anonymity of your comments. Also, I look forward to hearing how I did an awful job because I would like to improve myself in any way I can.

  3. Some Anon Response  

    The other guys say that the current system only encourages the selection of current council members. This is false. I'm going to stay away from current members because I don't want my comments to be misconstrued. The current E-board has been amazing. My favorite example is Salima Eboo, Secretary last year. She had never been on council before. She was elected internally from the class council level and she did an amazing job. We don't select within the council. We select the people who do the most and are the best.

    Can you imagine what would happen if someone who had never done any event programming became VP Student Life? Although highly unlikely, there have definitely been past VP Campus Life's on CCSC who have not had experience programming on a scale larger than just 100 participants. Programming official events takes much more work and an intricate knowledge of the University Events management, Risk Management, Facilities, A/V, Tech, Catering. Most people don't even know what these departments up on the 7th floor of Lerner are w/o experience on council.

    More importantly, what do you think would happen if someone who's never dealt with co-sponsorships became VP Intergroup (our version of VP Finance and VP Communications)? Most people have no idea that the VP intergroup goes to ESC E-Board meetings, chairs the ESC co-sponsorship meetings, goes to ABC meetings, goes to SGB meetings, goes to general ESC meetings, meets with SGA, GSSC and CCSC VPs of Finance on top of having a full course-load.

    Some eager freshman (see http://columbiaspectator.com/node/29644) could in theory get that spot then be utterly incompetent. The result could be ESC going broke.

    I'll give you another example, in the past there was a CCSC president who had never been on CCSC. He had never done anything like the job of representing any of the students of CC. As a result he was learning on the job and had to rely on his other VPs to tell him what was the right move. That's not the leader that you want.

    Finally, don't talk to us about democracy. Talk to us about the American way of life. In the US the electoral college gives the result of the election. The council acts like the electoral college. Yes, the electoral college makes mistakes every now and then (read: once) but on the whole the presidents it has selected have been the choice of the people.

    • I agree

      you don't want an ESC president who has to learn on the job. hillary for ESC!

      p.s. - wasn't seth flaxman a neophyte when he was elected to CCSC? didn't he get, like, a lot of financial aid shit done?

    • Nice Speech  

      But the electoral college has been "wrong" more than once.

      For the curious: http://www.presidentelect.org/art_evpvdisagree.html

      In addition to that, there is the election of 2000. So that makes 3 or 4 electoral vs popular disagreements, depending on how you look at it.

      In my opinion, the Electoral College is better than a straight popular vote. However, the ESC elections are VERY far from the electoral college.

  4. ...  

    BORED.

    POST HARDER.

  5. Ahem  

    So again, the argument is that ESC knows best, and the SEAS student body would vote in a dumbass into office. Because, you know, engineers are irrational and incompetent, and cannot be trusted. Frankly, if an outsider gets voted in, that's a sign of unhappiness with the current board, not a sign that the engineers are stupid.

    Also, please get someone other than Samantha John pushing for democracy; the ABC heads are elected in a similar fashion as the ESC heads.

  6. Mr. Seas  

    If the SEAS student body got to vote they'd elect Jack Mcgourty as ESC president because he's the smartest, most prolific leader known to man.

    One time he took a shit in Mudd and the Gateway lab sprouted from it.

  7. hooligan  

    BRIAN PAN FOR UNIVERSITY SENATOR 08!

  8. Mrs. SEAS  

    Mr. SEAS, that comment just made my day.

  9. So what

    It's like lots of governments around the world. You elect the parties, they elect the leaders of those parties.

  10. ...  

    i think the ESC executive board should be made up of the losers from the CCSC democratic process. having substandard folks from the liberal arts side govern the engineers would be good preparation for the workplace.

  11. but...  

    ...who cares? remind me again when esc did something that mattered to me?

    • Never  

      Even if they were doing something, you're too stupid to realize it's being done, right? Hence the Council is rightfully protecting itself from any scrutiny/threat of impeachment. Too bad their meetings are closed and their finances vague, or else you'd know how great a job your council is doing.

      Good luck, engineers. ESC is just trying to stay is that you are too ignorant and stupid to make the right choices for student government. Dan Okin and Liz Strauss should marry; a new Mussolini would be fun.

  12. *grammar  

    ESC is just trying to say that...

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