Many USG candidates elected unopposed, reflecting internal trends, unsuccessful external outreach
Last week’s USG winter elections marked the first elections cycle in recent history in which all committee leadership elections were uncontested. USG vice president Stephen Stolzenberg ’13 said the large number of uncontested races represents “a failing on the part of our administration.”
In uncontested races, Carla Javier ’15 was elected social chair, Trap Yates ’14 was elected campus and community affairs chair, Gregory Smith ’15 was elected University Life Committee chair, and Dillon Sharp ’14 was elected academics chair. Christina Yu ’14 was also elected treasurer in an unopposed race. Stolzenberg and other USG leaders expressed concern that this trend indicated the USG’s efforts to encourage a wide range of students to run have not been successful.
Yates is an associate editor for Street, and Javier is a news staff writer for The Daily Princetonian.
“I think that it is unfortunate that only one person ran for each of these positions,” Stolzenberg said.
He said one possible explanation could be the USG’s failure to adequately advertise the positions to USG members. He said the USG Senate will discuss the question of how the USG should react to the prevalence of uncontested elections on Sunday and in the upcoming weeks.
USG president Bruce Easop ’13 said the USG hopes there will be more candidates running and more people involved in the elections process in the future, to ensure the USG is representative of the student body and includes a wider variety of perspectives.
“I think the future will look to more outreach,” Easop said. “There is room for improvement.”
Several USG members said the high number of uncontested races was possibly a result of an intra-committee trend — once one committee member shows interest in running for a position, other members within the committee abstain from running, resulting in an effective “USG-selected candidate,” Social Committee member Nathan Serota ’14 said.
“You’re friends with the people you work with,” Serota said. “It makes sense.”
Social Committee member Yasmin Murphy ’14 said this dynamic played out in this year’s election for social chair. When Javier, currently a member of the committee, expressed interest in running, many members of the committee thought she would do a good job, so no one challenged her. Murphy suggested a possible way to combat this phenomenon is to encourage people outside the USG to run.
Christina Yu ’14, the newly elected USG treasurer, has never been involved in the USG before. She decided to run after current USG treasurer Lillian Cartwright ’14, a friend of hers, advised Yu to seek out the position. Cartwright chose not to run for re-election because she will be studying abroad next semester. Yu said she had not expected to run unopposed.
“The fact that not many people ran may encourage people that were intimidated this year to run next year,” Yu said. “I think this will naturally encourage USG participation,” Yu explained.
Serota explained many people outside the USG are hesitant to apply for a chair position because they recognize how much extra work the positions are, and a lot of people have no interest in committing that time.
“There is a period of time when people are willing to explore the prospect of being involved with the USG as a freshman, and after that, because they are already involved in other things, that window closes,” Serota said.
Freshmen and sophomores often feel uncomfortable running for chair positions, and upperclassmen who are already involved in many groups don’t have the time to take on additional responsibilities, said Sharp, who is currently a Class of 2014 senator.
Easop said people who abstain from running make that choice independently but said that in the future the USG should try to “increase access” and encourage broader groups of students to get involved.
Sharp said he was disappointed so many positions went uncontested, adding that without multiple candidates there is less room for discussion about issues and evaluation of a committee’s successes and failures.
He said he was surprised that so few people ran to be chairs of committees this year, considering the USG’s efforts to popularize elections and make the USG more accessible over the past year.
“The more people you have running, the better it is for everyone,” Sharp added. “It’s just weird that all the positions were uncontested.”