Student Council Presidential Hopefuls Anticipate Upcoming Campaign Process

This week marked the first milestone in the Phillips Academy Student Council presidential elections, as fifteen candidates – nearly twice as many as the previous year – each collected 500 signatures and submitted their platforms to incumbent Council President Kanyi Maqubela ’03 in the hopes of assuming his post next Fall. The group of hopefuls is dominated by males, featuring only two females. Maqubela interpreted the increase in the number of candidates from last year as a positive sign, noting, “This shows that a lot of Uppers have faith in the Student Council and want to contribute to the process of student government.” Although Maqubela expressed his disappointment at the relatively low number of females running for the post this year, he hopes more will vie for the position in the future. Despite this year’s more diverse crop of candidates than that of last year, when only one girl ran for the Council presidency, female aspirant Katie Folkman ’04 spoke out about the gender imbalance, stating, “It is ridiculous that there are so few girls running. Girls should not be in the minority in student government.” Many of the candidates have credited their motivation to run to their desire to improve Academy life. Sam DuPont ’04 remarked that he felt that there was a need for a number of changes and concurred with fellow hopefuls about both the likelihood of a close race and the talent of the candidate pool. Discussing the role of the Council President, current Upper Representative Will Scharf ’04 acknowledged the responsibilities of the Council President, explaining, “The president is often the most visible symbol of the student body, at least the way the administration sees things. The president must therefore do his best to ensure that student opinions are not simply forgotten or ignored.” Folkman highlighted her interpretation of the role, declaring that whoever is elected “has the opportunity to improve student life.” Communication between students and the administartion is a recurring theme in candidates’ platforms. Many candidates assert “the lack of student impact on important decisions,” in the words of Folkman, as a problem that could be potentially exacerbated as the school faces a substantial budget crisis. Presidential hopeful Benjamin Sweeney ’04 commented, “The administration needs to give the students a better chance to talk about policies being made.” Scharf was also explicit in stating, “Most of all, I want to make sure that the student body has a true voice on campus, that the opinions of the student body are represented throughout the decision-making process on an entire range of important issues on campus.” Reform of the disciplinary system – advocated particularly strongly by Ben Sweeney – and the need for the preservation of off-campus programs are also common issues. Inspired by the often slow process of passing student-initiated proposals, other candidates, including Aaron Stroble ’04, hope to create a formal procedure in which students can present ideas to the administration on a regular basis. Stroble also hopes to modify the Constitutional Correspondence Commitee. Allegra Asplundh-Smith ’04 is running a campaign based primarily on Disciplinary Committee (DC) Reform. “I think that perceptions need to be clarified about the DC process,” Asplundh-Smith said. “Although kids quickly condemn [the DC system] as an abusive process, I think that it is a good system that disciplines kids in a fair way, though it is usually perceived as unfair.” In a message to all candidates, outgoing President Maqubela urged whoever is elected to “encourage continuity between student councils by continuing to pursue the same projects that have been focused on by the previous student council.” Such plans include the implementation of a reduction in the athletic requirement next year and the extension of the Dean of Students Office’s weekly grocery transportation to Shawsheen Plaza into the coming year. The current pool of fifteen candidates will be whittled down to three by the end of the term through a series of ballots. The first will take place next Tuesday, when a voting booth will be set up in Commons and students can check the names of up to twelve students. The top twelve aspirants will then advance to the next round of ballots and the group narrowed down until only three students remain. The three finalists will have a chance to elaborate on their platforms in a speech at the first All-School Meeting of the spring, when the entire student body will vote. Starting next Monday, the candidates’ platforms will be on display in Commons, when advertising will be officially allowed. Benjamin Bloom, Meade Curtis, Travis Green, Uzoma Iheagwara, Derrick Kuan, Sam Levenback, Jisung Park, Jeff Pena, and Fan Wang are also running. The candidate pool will be narrowed down to only six candidates and then to three candidates by the end of this term. The remaining three will deliver speeches to the student body during a Spring term All-School Meeting. The final round of elections will follow that ASM, yielding the Student Council President for 2003-04.