Uproar: The Controversy behind the Senior Election
In early October, the annual class representative elections took place throughout the school. Interested students gave a short speech in front of their grade, stating why they should become the person to represent their grade’s needs and desires. The election is supposed to be very brief, with a quick speech period and a survey to fill out. All talk of the election should have ended within the homeroom period. Much of the senior class, however, was unhappy with the election. A few days later, when the school had its October business meeting, seniors expressed their outrage over the election process. As the discussion furthered, accusations that the teachers and business team can veto student elections surfaced. These accusations were immediately followed by blowback from the administration and some other students. This conversation immediately raised the questions: Can the faculty influence student elections?
Dennis Iancic, a senior and candidate for class representative, told his side of the story. “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.” As the day of the election arrived, the seniors gathered to cast their votes, “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 12th-grade advisor and English teacher, stood up and asked if anyone else wanted to run. “I raise my hand and he’s like, alright, 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.’”
Students clearly remembered this controversial turn of events walking into the October business meeting. After some introductory announcements, the clerks of the meeting brought up the class representative election, explaining that they had gotten some complaints about how the elections were conducted. Dennis explained, “I was going to say something, initially. However, my advisor came up to me and advised that I shouldn’t speak.” Dennis ended up not needing to speak because other seniors, such as Phil Crock, did so for him. Phil recalled the event with passion, 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.” The entire student body soon joined him in his protest. "Now it was everybody else’s job to chime in, and that’s when the pandemonium really began,” said Dennis Iancic. This protest against the system was hit with an immediate response from Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Miller. They didn’t seem to appreciate the turn the business meeting had taken. Phil 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 weren’t taking the discussion seriously and that they weren’t answering the queries presented. This effort to try and put a pause on the conversation was unsuccessful and the conversation only ended with the meeting. Co-clerk of the business meeting, Lily Rashkind, said that she was not surprised at 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.”
The election process works like this; one business team member must be present at the nominee speeches for each grade. One of the things the team looks for is whether or not they believe the nominees are truly taking the process seriously. After the votes have been tallied and graphed by Greer Marvel, the recording clerk, the business team meets briefly to look at the numbers. If they think that a candidate who won is a bad choice for the community, they can raise concerns to the faculty sponsors, Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Scott. The faculty sponsors can then decide whether or not to 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.” The By-Laws state that faculty sponsors are “valued the same as any student would be.” However, though they can advise the business team, they “can’t have final veto.” The results are then taken by Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Scott and communicated to the school.
It is important to note that the By-Laws do not grant permission for the faculty sponsors to overturn election results. They explicitly state, “The two candidates with the most votes will automatically be elected as Class Representatives.” No mention of a system to move to the next most popular vote is made. It is also important to note that when outlining the election process for class representatives, the By-Laws 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 really have to sign-up? According to the By-Laws, no. He should have been able to self-nominate in person as he did.
According to the business team, the faculty sponsors are allowed to proceed to the next candidate, if they feel the original would not be a good choice, regardless of whether they won the majority vote. According to the by-laws, the two candidates with the most votes will automatically be elected, leaving no authorization for the faculty sponsors to proceed to the next person. According to the business team, one must fill out an online form to be considered a candidate. According to the by-laws, one can self-nominate in person during a homeroom period. Given that the By-Laws are the official rules for the Business Meeting and Business Team, it is unclear where the faculty sponsors get permission to overturn election results.