Uproar: The Controversy Behind The Senior Election
“When it’s an overwhelming vote… (towards) someone who there are concerns about. That’s when we have Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Scott come in.” - Sophie Brennen
In early October of last year, the annual class representative elections took place throughout the school. Students interested in serving as class representatives gave speeches in front of their grades, stating why their peers should elect them to represent their grade's wants and needs. Usually, class representative elections are brief, with short speeches and a survey to complete. And once finished, talk of the elections typically ends within the homeroom period. However, some senior class members were unhappy with this year's election results. A few days after the elections, when the Upper School had its October Business Meeting, several seniors rose to express their discontent with the outcome of the election process. As the discussion proceeded, students claimed that faculty sponsors and Business Team members could overturn student elections. Upper School faculty members rose to refute these claims. Following the conclusion of this Business Meeting, the question remained: can the Business Team faculty sponsors and members overturn student elections?
Dennis Iancic, a senior and candidate for class representative, relayed his experience of the senior class election. "Basically, the deal-io was… I wanted to run, but I never saw a sign-up sheet for it. So I assumed that this was going to be on the spot." When election day arrived, the seniors gathered to cast their votes. Iancic continued, "I see that two people have been called up: Carter and Josephine. I believe Carter went first, and then Josephine; they each had a twenty-second speech. Not a whole big deal." After those two short speeches, Jake Rashkind, a twelfth-grade advisor and English teacher, stood up and asked if anyone else wanted to run. Iancic said, "I raise my hand, and he's like, all right, come on down. Everyone starts a USA chant, screaming 'USA, USA,' as I come down to the staircase where I did my speech… The crowd's going crazy, I've never seen us so unified about one thing. And then Mr. Scott comes up and basically says something to the effect of, 'Dennis didn't sign up, so therefore we're just going to have Josephine and Carter be the class reps.' And everybody's like, 'aww, come on.'" Two other sources confirmed Iancic's account of the senior election.
Walking into the October Business Meeting, students remembered this sequence of events. And after some initial announcements, the Meeting clerks brought up the class representative elections, explaining that they had received complaints about how the elections were conducted. Iancic explained, "I was going to say something [during the meeting], initially. However, my advisor came up to me and advised that I shouldn't speak." Iancic did not need to speak because other seniors, such as Phil Crock, spoke for him. Crock recalled his contribution to the discussion, saying, "I stood up and essentially said that many of the seniors felt we weren't properly notified about the sign-up to run for one of the representative spots. And we felt that was a bit unfair. If it was a message, then that's not really the best way. Everybody skips over messages." Other members of the student body rose to agree with Crock and expressed their own dissatisfaction with the student election process. As Iancic said, "Now it was everybody else's job to chime in, and that's when the pandemonium really began." In response to the students' protestations, faculty members such as Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Miller rose to voice their concerns about the direction the Business Meeting had taken. As Phil Crock said, "[Mrs. Johnson] stood up, and she started saying that we were making a mockery of Business Meeting For Worship." Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Miller's main concern seemed to be that students were not taking the discussion seriously and not answering the queries presented. Efforts to end this discussion were unsuccessful, and the Business Meeting concluded with the issue unresolved. Co-clerk of the business meeting, Lily Rashkind, said she was not surprised by the discussion. "I kind of knew that, going into the meeting, it would potentially be a controversial topic… I think the senior grade has a very specific take… We have had the same people for four years, and that's pretty rare." She continued, "I think that there's definitely been frustration voiced by some of the people in my grade who have run for class rep in the past."
According to two sources with firsthand knowledge of the process, the student elections work like this: one Business Team member is present at the nominee speeches for each grade. One of the things Team members look for is whether they believe the nominees are taking the process seriously. After the Recording Clerk has tallied and graphed the votes for each election, the Business Team meets to review the votes and assess who won the elections. If Team members believe that a student who won the election is a poor choice for the community, either Business Team members or the faculty sponsors, Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Scott, can voice their concerns. The Team can then decide whether to stay with the student elected or proceed with the next most popular choice. Lily Rashkind explained, "[We] could say to Mrs. Johnson, 'I don't think that this is a good fit; let's go with the next person.'" Sophie Brennan added, "When it's an overwhelming vote… (towards) someone who there are concerns about, that's when we have Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Scott come in…So they come in and say, 'I don't know if that was legitimate…' That's when the concerns are brought up." Once they have decided on a final slate of candidates, the Business Team communicates to the school the names of the students elected.
It is important to note that the Bylaws do not grant permission for the Buisness Team to reject election results. The Bylaws state explicitly, "The two candidates with the most votes will automatically be elected as Class Representatives." The Bylaws make no provision for a process to move to the next most popular vote. It is also important to note that when outlining the election process for class representatives, the Bylaws state, “Candidates for Class Representative must self-nominate at the beginning of the school year during their grade’s homeroom meeting.” However, this was not how the elections were conducted this year. Instead, the business team sent out a Google Form, which some people missed, and asked students to sign up instead of doing nominations in person during a homeroom meeting. So, did Dennis Iancic have to sign-up? According to the By-Laws, the answer is no. Iancic —and every other student who wanted to serve as a class representative—needed to self-nominate in person during homeroom.
According to Business Team members, faculty sponsors can reject the student who received the most votes and proceed to the next student candidate if the sponsors believe the student who won the majority vote would not be a good choice for the role of class representative. According to the Bylaws, the two students who receive the most votes are automatically elected as class representatives. The Bylaws provide no process for rejecting a student who received the majority vote. According to the Business Team, students must complete an online form to be considered as a candidate for student class representative. According to the Bylaws, students self-nominate in person during a homeroom period. Given these discrepancies between the Bylaws that govern student elections and current Business Team Practices, it is unclear where their authorization to overturn elections come from.