Despite media attention on Columbia College’s vacant University Senate seat this week, many students just don’t care about the senate election.
The Columbia College Student Council executive board said on Sunday that it would hold a direct election to fill the vacancy left by Cleo Abram, CC ’15.
Senators Matthew Chou, CC ’14, and Jared Odessky, CC ’15, and CCSC President Daphne Chen, CC ’14, initially said they would hold an indirect election, which would allow a two-thirds majority vote in CCSC to elect the new senator.
They received criticism, however, after the class of 2014 council sent an email questioning whether Chou and Odessky had withheld the confirmation of the vacancy until after the first-year elections.
Of 55 Columbia College students interviewed on Monday and Tuesday, only 18 said they planned to vote in the election. And 36 said they hadn’t heard about the senate vacancy at all.
Some of the students who had been following the news said that they found the timing of the initial announcement suspicious.
“It was kind of shady,” Julian NoiseCat, CC ’15, said. “They knew what was happening, and they maneuvered it to get the political situation they wanted.”
Eugene Stolow, CC ’14, echoed NoiseCat’s concerns.
“I’m upset, frankly,” he said. “It sounds shady. What happened to honesty in politics?”
David Froomkin, CC ’15, was Odessky’s opponent during the elections for senate last spring. He said that this episode has encouraged him to continue his campaign for reform.
“I think it’s always disconcerting when elected officials want to bypass voters. I was glad to see that the senior class council is open to having a dialogue about the democratic deficient in CCSC, and the lack of transparency,” he said.
“Democracy is about letting the people decide who their representatives are,” he added.
In a statement released Sunday night, the executive board responded to critics of the flip-flop, saying that they had no choice but to announce the vacancy after the first-year elections.
“CCSC and the Senate could not announce the vacancy until the Senator formally decided to vacate her seat,” the statement read. “Upon receiving confirmation of the vacancy on Tuesday, September 24, CCSC and the Senate immediately informed the student body on Wednesday, September 25.”
Froomkin said that the problem lies with the institution, because the council has not done enough to encourage students to vote.
“This is a watershed moment,” he said. “This is not about filling a seat. This campaign is about reforming the senate.”
However, most students said that they were not interested in voting for the election at all and weren’t following campus politics.
Katherine Nevitt, CC ’16, said that she was too busy to vote or be informed about the candidates running for the position.
“I know, even though it requires no extra energy or physical exertion. ... It’s the last thing on my mind.”
Jessica Anderson, CC ’15, said that she will not vote because she doesn’t think the senate affects her daily life in a dramatic way.
“I don’t feel a personal stake in the result,” she said.
Lucas Sereidea, CC ’14, said that he did not know about the vacancy nor will he vote in the election. “I’ve never really given it that much attention. I’m not really aware of the power of the student body here,” he said.
Others, however, were more hopeful.
Madysen Luebke, CC ’16, said that she would definitely vote in the election.
She said, “There’s no reason not to. You have a chance to have your voice heard.”
Sophie Rothman contributed reporting.