After a week of campaigning by the 2016 Class Council candidates, the UA announced the results of the election last Saturday. The freshman class elected Anish D. Punjabi ’16 as president and Pratyush “Priya” Kalluri ’16 as vice president. Of the 1140 freshmen, 40.5 percent voted this year, up from 33.5 percent last year. In previous years, senate elections were held concurrently with the freshman class council elections in the fall, but the Undergraduate Association (UA) disbanded the senate at the end of last year.
There were no official candidates for either secretary or the publicity chairs, which meant that the winners for those two races were all write-ins. Everyone elected to the 2016 Class Council this year lives on West Campus, with three of the eight officers from Baker and two from Next House.
However, Punjabi doesn’t think that this makeup is going to be an issue.
“With social media, I don’t think that’s really going to have a large effect,” said Punjabi. During his campaign, Punjabi used Facebook to publicize his candidacy, and plans to continue using social media during his term to publicize events. He added, “As representatives from our class, I think it’s our responsibility to reach out to everyone in East Campus as well as West Campus.”
Reaction from freshmen
Random, Next, and Maseeh saw the highest dorm voting participation rates, while Bexley, New, and Senior House saw the least. 55 percent of freshmen in Random voted, while only 20 percent of the freshmen in Bexley voted. Even though a greater percentage of freshmen voted this year, the number is still lower than what the UA would like.
“I think there are people who don’t understand the importance of a student government, or they think it isn’t going to affect them, so they don’t vote,” said Laura D. Royden ’13, UA Election Commission Chair.
A common complaint among freshmen is that there wasn’t enough time to get to know all the candidates first before voting.
“There isn’t enough awareness as to who the candidates actually are,” said Zachary M. Mikaya ’16, who didn’t end up voting. “I think a possibility to improve that would be to dedicate a certain amount of time where students can go listen to the candidates talk about their platforms, maybe in a more open forum.”
Houston Mills ’16 agreed. “Honestly, I felt like it was a little early for the election. We’re about one month into the semester, and we already had to choose who in our class was fit to be the figurehead of our entire year. It seemed like it was more of an arbitrary thing.”
Tanya Talkar ’16, who voted in the class council election, said that most of the only publicity she encountered was from knowing some of the candidates. For those who she didn’t know, she read their platforms and voted for the ones which appeared most professionally made.
“Another problem that I felt was that I didn’t know exactly what they [the officers] do,” said Talkar. “It’s like ‘Oh, well, you’re president, but what do you do as president?’”
The campaigning process
Campaigning opened on Monday, Sept. 17, two days before voting began. Voting ended that Friday, and results were announced on Saturday.
While campaigning, Punjabi said that his goal was to be as personable as possible.
“It’s definitely important to try to be yourself when you campaign, and that’s what I tried to do,” said Punjabi. “I know different people have different campaign strategies. For me, I didn’t want it to be a superficial ‘Hi, hello, how are you doing?’ and then never talk again with that person.”
In addition to using Facebook, Punjabi put up posters in dorms and handed out cards with candies. He said that his favorite part of campaigning was getting to meet all types of people.
“We have a really big class, so it’s definitely difficult to get to know everybody. I didn’t get to know all 1,100 people, but the people I got to know I got to know really well,” he said.
“For me, campaigning was all about talking to a lot of 2016s genuinely,” said Kalluri. “I talked to a lot of other 2016s in dining halls, dorms, and email lists — letting them know what I stood for as a candidate and asking for their questions and suggestions.”
Both Punjabi and Kalluri were student representatives in high school and enjoyed being involved in student politics.
“I think the elections went really well,” said Colin P. McDonnel ’16, who ran for presidency. “[The] campaigns were positive and not tasteless. The winners are qualified, and their victory is a testament to the tried and true candy distribution strategy.”
The winner doesn’t necessarily need to be the candidate who won the most first-place notes. The UA uses the preferential voting system, in which voters rank all their candidates.
“We want someone to have the majority vote, not just the plurality, so it’s possible that whoever originally has the most first place votes could have a bunch of last place votes,” explained Royden. “We think plurality voting gives a better idea of how everybody feels about all the candidates overall.”
“I think it [preferential voting] is good,” Talkar said. “If you just put your all into one candidate, then it’s kind of a loss if they lose, so I liked it.”
Plans for the future
Talkar hopes the freshman class council will host many study breaks and events throughout coming the year so that freshmen can continue to meet each other and form a better sense of solidarity.
“I think first and foremost it’s important that we reach out to everyone in the freshman class, and we make sure that everyone is having an adequate time integrating into their freshman year,” said Punjabi.
Kalluri also has ambitious plans. “I want to focus on making the Class of 2016 really stand out. That means spotlighting 2016s, having a few, truly special 2016 events, opening up the power of the UA to support 2016 ideas, and introducing community service to Class Council. If we can say, at the end of the year, that our class did something together that helped make the world a better place, we’ll have every reason to be proud of our year.”
Moreover, Punjabi hopes to get more people involved in student government.
“I think it’s important that we have transparent communication and everyone feels like they’re being a part of the class and making good decisions,” said Punjabi. “We don’t want to make misinformed decisions and be some isolated group that’s away from the whole freshman class. We want to promote class unity and cohesiveness.”
“I think we can create a lot of positive change in the next four years,” he added.