All 39 members of Students Run City, the party that ran City College of New York’s undergraduate student government since 2010, won the re-election that took place Sept. 27 to Sept. 28.
CCNY was left without a student government after Interim President Vincent Boudreau voided the results of the Spring 2017 USG election. As the semester was at its end, the college was not able to immediately conduct a re-election.
The decision bore a lot of negative effects that are still felt at CCNY. Students who are familiar with student government affairs claimed that the entire election process felt rushed and disorganized. It also caused dire funding problems for clubs and organizations.
According to the unofficial election results, 8.35 percent of CCNY students voted in the election, or 1,053 of 12,540 undergraduates. Each SRC candidate received between 150 and 250 more votes than independent candidates.
A former senator of CCNY’s USG, who wished to remain anonymous, shared his disappointment regarding how the Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 elections turned out.
“Although there was tension, competitiveness and students being involved in the election process, it could have been done more professionally. No debates or town hall meetings between candidates were being held, no real opportunity to meet candidates, and votes for a party felt forced.”
Taimoor Arif, the newly elected president of CCNY’s USG and member of SRC, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The Spring 2017 election, which took place at the end of the semester, marked the first time CCNY used an online voting system in a USG election.
Students were able to use their student IDs to log in to the system from any device with internet access. This meant that the voting process was difficult to regulate, with the biggest restriction just barring students from voting twice.
When the unofficial results were released in May, Boudreau nullified the election, stating that the entire election administration was "weaker than it needs to be,” and could result in more voter intimidation, as stated in an earlier article published by The Ticker.
“Each party candidate was able to carry laptops for students to vote for them. It was a ‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ type of election. Both sides used pizza and other food to gain people's attention. SRC was even heard to be interrupting people inside their own private dorms. In the end, I was not surprised with the results of the election being voided,” the former senator said.
When their slate, the Conscious Humanitarian Party, was disbanded by the Student Elections Review Committee, Tracy Orend and his former teammates decided to run in the Spring 2017 election as independent candidates.
During a phone interview, Orend stated that the re-election had a lot of organizational difficulties. Although Boudreau held a town hall for questions about election logistics, Orend complained that Boudreau did not share a lot of information about the election and campaign processes. Even during the Spring 2017 semester, Boudreau refused to answer any election-related questions “because he was busy with graduation.”
Orend originally believed his team would be able to recruit new members in order to fill the independents’ slate. However, a week before the election, SERC informed the slate that its members would not be allowed to add new members to the ballot; only people who ran in the original election would be able to run again.
However, between the election and re-election, the independents’ slate shrunk from over 20 members to only 13, while SRC put forward 39 candidates.
Orend said that during the first election, the former CHP members decided to run as independents because it would allow them to spend more money on their campaigns. For the re-election, when there was less time to campaign, the remaining candidates formed a slate. According to SERC regulations, independent candidates could spend up to $200 each on their campaigns, while an entire slate was only allowed $1,000.
During the Fall 2017 voting cycle, SERC created specific rules on how online voting would be conducted. A graduate computer room was repurposed as a voting station. Students entered the room, showed their student IDs to the SERC representatives and receive login information. Orend called it “a minute-long process, it was very easy.”
Besides being messy for CCNY as a whole, clubs and organizations were hit particularly hard by the effects of the convoluted elections.
Just like in Baruch College, clubs and organizations in CCNY receive their budgets directly from USG. Without a student government, none of the clubs and organizations on campus received any funding for the Fall 2017 semester. This means that club and organization leaders have a tough choice ahead of them: they must either fund their events out-of-pocket or not hold any events at all, which would have a negative impact on the clubs’ existence on campus.
Edward Saingchin is a member of the executive board of CCNY’s Philippine-American Organization, one of the larger organizations on campus.
“Right now, we have no budget. The only thing they’re telling us is that maybe during the next semester we’ll be refunded for our expenses and anything we need to be refunded for,” he said in a phone interview.
The first event of the semester, he said, cost the club between $500 and $1,000. Most of that money was spent on catering.
However, clubs leaders have no assurance that they will be reimbursed for the money they spent on club events during the Fall 2017 semester.
“We’re hoping that by the spring we will, but we don’t know,” Saingchin said.
Overall, the election was seen as a positive experience when it came to placing a spotlight on how the student government operates.
“I think the whole thing definitely raised awareness,” Orend said. “We reached out to a lot of people individually. We spent a lot of time talking to club leaders … to students … to anyone we could find.”
However, some of the independent candidates felt discouraged by the election process. Orend estimated that of the students who made it to the Fall 2017 slate, 80 to 85 percent will not run again in the next student government election.