Following the “fisking” format used in my previous post on direct election reform, I’ll address the opinions set forth in today’s Crimson. As with most fiskings, it may run a little on the longer side. (more in expanded post)
I’ll take each piece of writing in turn – first the Crimson Ed Board’s opinion and then Goldenberg’s. Ready? Go.
The selection of the council vice president is a matter too important to be left to a small group of representatives—subject to immense internal political pressures—at the end of their respective terms. The council must change its rules so that the vice president’s selection adequately reflects the needs and interests of the 6,500 term-bill-fee-paying undergraduates to whom the council is ultimately responsible.
A few things here: first, it’s kinda strange that the Crimson Ed Board, who just endorsed abolishing separate elections for President and VP in favor of allowing the President to hand-pick his runningmate, essentially says that allowing the UC to vote for the VP is some how not democratic enough. Ironic, don’t you think. Nice to see that their concern for the most democratic method of choosing a Council VP doesn’t get in the way of their recommendation that the UC adopt a less democratic method of election. Useless inneundo? Check.
Second, why would it not be good for the current Council to select the new VP? According to the Crimson, it’s because the current group of reps, even though all lame-ducks, are subject to “immense internal political pressure.” Yes, little did you know, but your UC reps are weak-willed tools with backbones resembling chocolate eclairs who fold at even the slightest hint of disagreement. Right. Of course, the Crimson neglects that this is the same Council that just shot down, not once but twice, the keystone legislation of the reform report – direct committee election, which was strongly favored by the current administration and the Crimson.
The Crimson neglects the rather obvious argument that, having served with the candidates for an entire year, maybe the current reps are very well suited to evaluate each candidate on their merits. If the election were to have been put off for the summer, next year’s Council, which nearly always has 60% turnover, would have been tasked with electing a new VP. Why would we think that these novices would have anymore will to fight the system than the current reps who have nothing to lose, especially those who have already announced that they will not be returning? Unncessary sexing up of the situation? Check.
Oh, and thanks for bringing up the “term-bill paying” point. Which brings me to this sham.
The closeness of the 22-20 vote is worrying particularly because it amounts to 22 students choosing a vice president responsible to 6,500 undergraduates, and for the term-bill fees that those undergraduates pay each year. That a victory this narrow can determine the person to administer students’ money is unacceptable.
Really Crimson Ed Board? Is that how you feel? How do you feel about the Council internally electing its Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair, who together control 67% of the Council budget? How do you feel about the internal election of the Student Affairs Chair and Campus Life Chair, who together control approximately another 31%? How do you feel about a 15 person committee controlling the entire rules, procedures, and grant decisions for the quarter-million dollar grants fund? Surely, you might say, because each of those reps was first elected by the student body in their respective houses. Right you certainly are. But what about Clay Capp and the Vice-Presidency? How much does he control? Zero. The same amount as the President, Matt Glazer. Capp arguably has slightly more control than Glazer, seeing as Glazer can only vote to break a tie. Capp at least has a vote on legislation – the same influence he had as a rep from Kirkland. “But the Vice-President is on the Executive Board!” you might say. Yes, and so is the Campus Life Chair, the Finance Chair, the Student Affairs, Chair, the Secretary, and the Treasurer – all elected internally.
And please, it’s “unacceptable” that Capp’s narrow election allows him to “administer” student funds (as if he hasn’t already served as Treasurer)? I recall Ian Nichols being elected by 50 votes out of 4,000 – 50 votes that he certainly would not have had without an engineered Crimson endorsement that, as every member of Council could attest, trumped up Ian’s record. Clay Capp received more votes than any other VP candidate ever except Ian Nichols. Ian Nichols is now gone. How is it that Capp doesn’t have a legitimate claim to have student support? Did that support somehow vaporize in the aftermath of an election, participated in by the current electorate, held only five months ago?
In the future, if the council vice president resigns too late in the year for proper full elections to take place, the council should internally elect an interim vice president, to serve until the soonest convenient time at which a student vote can take place
I’ve already addressed this in part as to why internal elections in the fall would be bad, but let me extend that to the entire campus. It is equally problematic to allow either outgoing seniors or incoming freshmen, both comprising 25% of the electorate, to choose the new VP in campus-wide elections. Let’s not pretend that asking a bunch of bright-eyed first-years to vote on a slate of upperclassmen only days after arriving on campus embues any future candidate with some sense of legitimacy. Like novice Councilmembers, the freshmen would be singularly unqualified to make that decision – namely, because they don’t really know what’s going on. It’s equally problematic to allow outgoing seniors who have weeks left in their Harvard experience to choose a new VP, since their decision would be binding for an entire semester on first-years who will be more disproportionately impacted by that decision. Short-sighted recommendation? Check.
It seems then that the current system is not illegitimate, but a good faith compromise. It allows the elected representatives of the students, who have worked with the candidates first hand, to make a decision.
As council vice president, Clay Capp can claim little more than a tenuous mandate. Capp, who failed to win the position in last December’s elections, won the post by the narrowest of margins against an opponent who is to graduate in three weeks.
I think I already covered this above. Look, you can’t move the goalposts in the middle of the game because you didn’t get your way. The system that was used has been in place long before anyone reading this was at Harvard, maybe even high school. It has never been used before. Clay won under the rules in place. Clay has just as much a mandate as any other narrowly elected officer. And, to be frank, the vote for Lurie likely represented the frustrations of many would be candidates who had sought support for the position in vain. Simply, Matt Glazer thought that Clay was the best for the job. He said that only months ago. Why should he change now? That he stuck to that opinion did not force out candidates, it just removed what they saw as their only way of winning the election.
The executive board, lacking a clear and strong mandate to govern, should now be highly self-critical and especially careful in the decisions that they make about spending student money.
What does the Exec Board have to do with this? What does the Exec Board expenditures have to do with this? How does the Exec Board, 5/7 of the voting members being internally elected, not have a mandate to govern? Does Glazer’s record win no longer count? The Crimson Ed Board is taking its ball and going home. Nevermind all the argumentation that came before it – the CrimEds are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. You hear that UC Exec Board! Be careful when you spend student money.
Now on to Goldenberg. I’ll cut it short since Goldenberg echoes the points in the editorial, but has a few problematic things.
Capp holds the second most important seat in Harvard’s student government as a result of an undemocratic selection process, a reality that will not change with the modification of UC protocol called for by this newspaper….
Capp’s selection is illegitimate not only because of he was chosen by a deeply flawed electorate, but also because he was not subjected to scrutiny from the student body….
As President Matthew J. Glazer ’06 continues to push his agenda for council reform, it would be sadly hypocritical for his right-hand man not to relinquish the power that he now holds as a result of the very kind of procedural mishap that the council ought to fix. And though he is by no means bound to go beyond the council bylaws as they currently stand, Capp should seize the chance to demonstrate real commitment to the student body by choosing the honorable course, and by putting his fate in the hands of his peers.
I’ve already addressed this, but once again, Clay Capp has withstood scrutiny by the student body more than any other candidate that could have been out there save Ian Nichols. That the Crimson continues to hammer away on this is amazing given that the election clearly was as democratic as it could have been made under the circumstances. Protocols were followed down to the letter – even Secretary Matt Greenfield (then acting VP) officially signed every single ballot. This was not a procedural mishap – the Council followed that it had to. Wouldn’t it have looked questionable to have changed the rules? What candidate would Goldenberg have then alleged stood to gain from a campus-wide election in the fall? Probably still Capp.
Indeed, the Crimson’s editorial last week on Ian Nichols’ departure mentioned the upcoming election and made absolutely no mention of how those elections should be conducted. The Crimson Ed Board knew what was going to happen. They knew the process. They cared so much about how that process was to play-out and felt so deeply that, of all candidates, Clay Capp shouldn’t have the Vice-Presidency, that they made zero mention of it before the election. I can’t help but wonder whether if some other candidate than Clay Capp won the election if we’d even be having this debate. Seeing as how the Crimson wouldn’t have had to scramble to save face if Aaron Chadbourne were elected, I think the Ed Board just may have had a different opinion. Just maybe. Now for some real chutzpah and the close of this missive.
Capp—elected by the members of a council that has been marinating in its own notorious internal politics for eight months and not by the student body to which he is responsible as vice president—cannot claim any real kind of mandate.
First, the internal composition of the body that elected Clay has absolutely no bearing on whatever mandate he had. This is a pathetic rhetorical flourish.
But more importantly, Mr. Goldenberg, it is interesting, indeed asinine, that anyone associated with the Crimson should ever dare use the language that you did in describing another organization’s internal politics. “Marinating in its own notorious internal politics for eight months?” Pot meet kettle. For 132 Guards. May you fare well in the Crimson’s internal elections, Mr. Goldenberg, a true model of good-spirited, heartily democratic, and conflict free elections.