“We will put water fountains in every dorm on campus,” boldly promised Student Body Co-Presidents Eastlyn Frankel ’18 and Sam Bird ’18 in The Phillipian just over a year ago. As we reach the end of their tenure, this has not happened.
After realizing this, I dug up an interview I shot during the campaign with our previous CoPresidents, Arthur Paleologos ’17 and Madison Pettaway ’17. When asked what one thing they wanted to achieve most, Arthur answered, “It would be changing the role of Student Council… I think if we walked away kind of changing how people looked at Student Council, I think that would be pretty revolutionary.” Perhaps the image of Student Council — ironically, one of ineffectuality — eventually will be changed, but so far it has not. In their platform, they also promised to take a “community-based approach to health and wellness” and to transform Wellness Week. In all fairness, Wellness Week was transformed under their administration: it was controversially eliminated.
I finally looked at the platforms of our prospective 2018- 2019 Co-Presidents. Disappointingly, I encountered many of the same promises which past CoPresidents promised and failed to deliver: new resources and dorms for day students, vague improvements in mentorship programs, abstract changes to improve mental health at Andover. I found statements like “discuss the installation of printers in Gelb and Bulfinch” and “engage in discussions about increasing the accessibility and amount of personal time.” Their solutions may be clear, but their commitment is not. Words like “discuss” precede each of their promises, which to me, reads as silent recognition that these policies will not be implemented, and that they are primarily written to pad their platforms and gain populist sentiment without providing viable solutions.
One could argue that the CoPresidents lack accountability, and without a motivating factor such as re-election, they do not accomplish their agendas. But I have great faith in the character of our present and past CoPresidents, so I do not think this is the case. One could also argue that it is not because the CoPresidents themselves cannot accomplish their aggressive policy transformations, but because they are not given the ability to take the necessary steps or the support from needed faculty. Yet each year, candidates assure us that their time will be different: they claim that a certain faculty member already approved the feasibility of their plan, or that the Dean of Students Office said something along the lines of “we may consider this idea…”
Perhaps the lack of power is part of why Co-Presidential agendas are never implemented, but I do not think it necessarily matters, because agendas are not why we have Co-Presidents. Co-Presidents are not Heads of Student Government. Rather, they are Heads of Student State. Their power rests not in administrative power, but in their ability to lead, uplift, and motivate the student body. Sure, Co-Presidential pairs typically accomplish one or two items off their long platform, but that is auxiliary to their primary function: supporting and representing the students of Andover to ourselves, to the administration, and to the outside world.
Unlike much of our national politics, the Andover elections actually should be characterbased, not policy-based. I will always support a pair of candidates who demonstrate passion, motivation, and a history of dedication to the Andover community over a pair with an ambitious platform and little chance of accomplishing it. Out of the seven platforms for this election, only one acknowledged this, saying “At the end of the day, none of these are promises… What we can promise is that we will work our very hardest to see change at this school for the betterment of the students’ mental, physical, academic, and social wellbeing.”
As we near the end of their term, I do not think Eastlyn and Sam’s failure to install water fountains makes them bad Co-Presidents. Rather, over the past year, they have proven themselves as leaders in some of the most difficult times imaginable for our community. Like Arthur and Madison, they have remained honest and approachable, confident yet humble, and they have not strayed from unifying and uplifting our community. That should be the role of our Co-Presidents, and it is time our elections embrace that.
Andrew Stern is a three-year Upper from Los Altos, Calif. Contact the author at astern@ andover.edu.