VSA elections highlight importance of student voting

On April 21, students will begin to vote today for next year’s representatives on the Vassar Student Association (VSA) and the house teams as part of the annual Spring Semester elections. As of 12 p.m. on that day, candidate campaigns will officially have closed and voting will take place until April 23. On April 23, results will be announced at 6 p.m., which concludes the third and final phase of the election process. 

Candidates had from April 6 to April 14 to file for positions, and campaigns took place through last week, according to Chair of the Board of Elections and Appointments Lilly Wolsk ’22. Wolsk is essentially the point person on both the elections and any appointments made throughout the year. She also works with other board members to create the election through a software called Simply Voting, with help from the CIS Department. 

Running unopposed for VSA President, Julián Aguilar ’23 pointed out the importance of proposing legislation for substantial change in the community as the only recognized body of students that can directly influence Vassar’s policy and practices. In a written correspondence, Aguilar said, “This level of involvement is huge, and as we’ve seen this past year, can produce so many tangible benefits for students.”

Aguilar has spent three years in the VSA as a First Year Representative of the Committee on Admission and Financial Aid, College Planning Senator and Co-Chair of the Constitutional Commission, respectively. He added, “Elections are the way for the student body to both send a message to the administration and the VSA regarding what their priorities and expectations are for the upcoming year and as a way to continually check the VSA to ensure that they remain productive and fulfill their responsibilities to the greater student body that they represent.” 

Wolsk said, as a voter, she enjoys learning about candidates that interest her. “I personally love reading people’s candidate statements and seeing what directions people want to take VSA and house teams in the coming year,” she shared. She continued, “As a senior who held elected positions my sophomore and junior years, I’ve always participated in the elections and it feels fitting for me to be working behind the scenes in my final year.” 

However, Wolsk said that fewer people were interested in filing for this year’s election, especially for house team positions. She explained in a written correspondence, “The same was true last year, a lot of house team positions had no one run for them and had to be appointed over the summer. The pandemic has been very hard on house teams and the ways they are able to engage with the first year class.” Wolsk added, “There are also just less people running in general, again not compared to last year but my first year, for example, and we have a lot more uncontested races even for big roles like VSA executive board.” 

Aguilar said there are three possible explanations for the decrease in student filings: the VSA doesn’t engage and communicate with the students as much as they should, the VSA’s off-balance division of labor turns people away from participating, or the large size of the body makes it hard to have competitive elections with so many niche roles. He said, “[As] of now, there are about 105 roles that make up the entire VSA. Getting 105 roles to be filled and spark competitive races with a student body of about 2,400 students is extraordinarily challenging.”

Wolsk said she has enjoyed putting together a new voting software for the election. “I hope that when the time comes we get a lot of voter turnout,” Wolsk said. “It’s very easy to vote, it takes about five minutes to fill out the ballot that I will email out, and the more people that vote the better representation we have of what students want.” Regardless, Wolsk added that with voting time rapidly approaching, students should take advantage of the opportunity to voice their support. 

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