Election to fill sudden vacancy in Exec. Board

At the Vassar Student Association (VSA) meeting on Sept. 28, Vice President for Activities Reuben Moncada ’15 announced his resignation, which will go into effect as soon as his position is filled by a special election to conclude on October 8. At the meeting Moncada announced, “I’ve been debating this over the past week or so and I think it’s what’s best for me right now. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it has to be done. I’ll still come to council meetings until a new Activities person is trained. For those of you who are staying, this is a rewarding experience.” In recent years, the VSA has seen a large turnover rate for Executive Board positions, including having to refill the VP for Student Life last fall.

Upon hearing of his decision to resign earlier the same day, the Board of Elections and Appointments (BOEA) met and discussed the merits of filling the position using a special election or appointment. BOEA chair Casey Hancock ’15, who recently stepped down from his position, will remain in his post with the BOEA until the end of the special election process. He wrote in an emailed statement, “I am staying on through this election as picking my replacement and training them while simultaneously holding an election is a logistical mess that simply isn’t worth the trouble.”

Before the BOEA made the recommendation for a special election, they debated whether a special election was the best way to fill the position. “We had a deep discussion that compared and contrasted the pros and cons of each method of filling the position,” wrote Hancock. “Our discussion didn’t lean very strongly in one direction or another as most people recognized the value of both methods.”

While this is the first resignation this academic year, Hancock explained that during the three years he has served on the VSA three members of the Executive Board were replaced. “Two years ago, the VP for Student Life and the VP for Academics were both replaced in the Spring semester through appointment,” wrote Hancock. “Quite a bit of that decision seemed to be focused on logistics and the social climate surrounding the situation.”

Hancock continued, “Last year, the VP for Student Life was replaced in the Fall Semester by an election. The decision to fill that position by election seemed to be based on the high logistical feasibility of an election and a desire to keep students engaged in the VSA and Student Life specifically.”

Given this information, the VSA and the BOEA lacked precedence for the best way to fill vacant positions in the middle of the semester. With the BOEA recommendation, the VSA did undergo an extensive debate on Sunday as to whether or not to approve the BOEA recommendation for special election.

Moncada was the first to express doubt about a special election. “So I trust the BOE[A], and because I resigned it doesn’t matter anymore, but I don’t feel comfortable handing off this position to someone who has really good campaigning skills,” he said in Council.

At the meeting, Hancock explained that the BOEA felt a special election was the best way to accurately represent the student body. “Ultimately we decided that we really want to see someone good coming into this position, the disenfranchising of people that would happen if we did an appointment position outweighed the negatives of campaigning,” he said.

The BOEA chair went on to explain, “We discussed it, because it’s an exec position, previous appointments for exec have been really controversial whereas previous elections have been met with scrutiny, but are generally better received.”

VP for Finance Maximilien Moran ’16 concurred with Moncada. “I want to disagree with this decision because what it comes down to is I think we need someone in this role immediately and pick up where Reuben left off because we need to get a move on things,” Moran said in the meeting.

Moran continued, “Furthering that, I don’t think in my personal opinion, that the student body is going to feel disenfranchised because they didn’t pick their VP for Student Activities. I don’t think they’ll care. I think we just need to fill the role. There will be very little voter turn-out, and people who aren’t involved with VSA probably won’t even realize that anything’s different.”

Although Council members entertained a debate between them, many at-large members spoke up against a special election. Briana Pedroni ’15 found issue in the outgoing VP for Activities’ comments concerning the lengthy training process for his replacement. “What I’m hearing in the arguments about an appointment versus an election is very self-centered. I don’t mean this in an offensive way: I don’t care that your job is going to be harder for a week and a half. If it benefits 2,400 students for the next six to eight months, you can deal with it for a week and a half,” Pedroni told the council. “As a member at-large, it seems elitist that you’re thinking about what it would mean for you. You’re supposed to represent the students and appointments just don’t do that.”

The Council voted in favor of a special election, with five abstentions and two against the special election. Class of 2017 President Jonathon Nichols was one of the votes in favor of the special election. “At the most basic level, I think that this is the best avenue to take because it is the decision arrived at by the Board of Elections and Appointments, people who were elected specifically to make decisions about filling positions,” wrote Nichols in an emailed statement.

VP for Operations Ramy Abbady ’16 wrote in an emailed statement, “I think that a special election was the best option for a few reasons. In general, I believe that positions on the VSA Council should always have elections, since these positions exist to be representatives.”

The exec board member continued, “Although the Executive Board members don’t represent specific constituencies within VSA Council meetings, they are the representatives of the student body as a whole in meetings with administrators, alumnae/i, and trustees. An election creates a level of accountability that simply isn’t possible in an appointment, especially since the Board of Elections and Appointments only consists of ten people.”

The VSA has not proposed suggestions to try to break the trend of losing members of Council. VSA President Carolina Gustafson ’15 refused to comment on Moncada’s resignation. However, Abbady will consider this with Operations Committee.

Abbady said in an emailed statement, “I can’t say definitively if we will be making any changes, but it’s certainly something that Operations Committee can discuss. However, at the moment, the most important thing is to keep everything functioning during the transitional period.”

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