The Colorado College Student Government Association is now facing questions from the administration and an internal probe after confidential election results from last year’s student trustee vote were leaked to The Catalyst.
The disclosed election results for the student trustee position that were supposed to be kept confidential by the CCSGA show that the board of trustees did not choose the elected winner of a student vote for the board position, according to election documents.
The disclosure of the election results violated an agreement made by CCSGA and the board of trustees when the student trustee position was created, thus threatening the relationship between the two parties.
Some members of the CCSGA executive council have expressed worry that there will no longer be a student vote to assist in electing a student trustee.
“If the leak originated from CCSGA, it represents a breach of confidentiality,” said Elliot Mamet, CCSGA constitutional vice president. “The current system is a compromise between CCSGA and the board. I hope that the disclosure of this information does not threaten the student voice in the future selection of the student trustee.
The process for choosing who would become student trustee was outlined in an agreement reached by CCSGA and the board of trustees. Candidates entered into an election where the student body voted for the top three. CCSGA was to keep the election results confidential and only release the winners of that election.
From those top three candidates, the winners were to interview with the board of trustees governance committee, which chose one person. Senior Samantha Barlow was chosen by the trustees and now holds that position.
Last week, however, anonymous sources, who identified themselves to a Catalyst reporter but asked to remain nameless, broke the election agreement by releasing the results.
The tally of votes revealed that Phillip Angelides received the majority of the vote, winning the general election by over 100 votes and more than 10 percent over Barlow.
Barlow came in second while Colby Diamond was in a close third.
“The student trustee position is a voting member on the board and the way we got that to work was by a combination of student votes and [the] governance committee,” said Ben Quam, former CCSGA president and initiator of the student trustee position. “The top three vote getters [were] nominated for selection.”
The Colorado College student trustee position is a one-year, full-voting-power, complete-privilege position on the board of trustees. Many colleges have created similar student positions on their boards, and last year, as part of initiatives to better include students in college decisions, CC created a position of its own.
For some the process was not enough, however, and the release of the results indicates a position that doesn’t actually represent student concerns.
“I feel a little bit cheated,” said Pat Knecht, CCSGA executive vice president. “I feel as if not only the president’s office and the board of trustees didn’t do their duty to maintain a sense of democracy in an election, but the CCSGA last year and the election commission didn’t do their duty as student representatives to defy the wishes of the president’s office and publish the results last year.”
Knecht was Angelides’ housemate last year and assisted in his campaign.
Although he feels that it is incredibly important to have a student voice on the board and understands that it is a trial year, Knecht feels the position should indicate that the trustees are interested in student concerns on campus and feels the board’s decision points to the contrary.
“…I was not in the room for any of the meetings to create the student trustee position, nor do I have knowledge of certain vocal agreements or written documentation,” said Nathan Lee, CCSGA president. “That being said, I do not believe that the election was handled in an ideal manner. In the future, I would like to see more dialogue about the purpose of the student trustee and the constraints of the board.”
This year, CCSGA will welcome the opportunity to discuss the election process in a campus-wide fashion and with the board of trustees, said Lee.
Nevertheless, others within CCSGA argue that the position was never meant to be representative of the students, but rather to include a student voice on the board of trustees.
“The board of trustees is a self-selecting body,” said Mamet. “The selection of a student trustee shouldn’t be conceptualized as a democratic choice. While the student trustee’s role is to provide student perspective as a board member, the student trustee is ultimately responsible to the board and the college, not to the student body.”
The current compromise between CCSGA and the board allows the student voice to be balanced against the board’s responsibility to select its own members, according to Mamet.
Quam sees the new position as a major gain for students.
“I was really happy with what we got,” said Quam.
Barlow believes confusion over the election may stem from a misunderstanding of the fact that, as attendees of a private institution, the board of trustees is a self-selecting body.
“I am not aware of any fraud or misconduct surrounding the student trustee elections last spring, so I would certainly say that the election itself was ‘fair’ and ‘democratic’,” said Barlow. “… I think where discomfort is surfacing for students is in regard to whether the ability to nominate three students for subsequent final selection and approval by the board is a ‘fair’ process holistically.”
“I respect the board’s decision,” he said. “I don’t take issue with it. Samantha is a great student trustee.”
While some students may be very disappointed that she is now the student trustee after what they see as an unfair decision process, Barlow said, she sincerely endeavors to hear students and do her best in this position.
Barlow wants students to know that this decision does not in any way reflect a lack of respect for student opinion and ideas by the board.
As far as the leaking of the results, Lee said CCSGA takes full responsibility for last year’s election committee. The President says he plans to acknowledge the broken agreement in a meeting with the trustees and stresses the need for the student government to keep their promises.
“Regardless of whether or not people agreed with how the student trustee election was handled, the commission did agree to the requirements set by the board of trustees,” said Lee.