Winner lacks voter mandate despite record high turnout

by Andrew Allport | 4/21/99 5:00am

Like the much publicized Trustee initiative, this year's elections have made history. An unprecedented number of students, aided by the convenience of online polling and BlitzMail reminders, cast or clicked their votes yesterday and Monday. And like the Trustees' initiative, there was no decisive decision.

In the presidential race, there appeared to be only two choices for students opposing the end of the College's Greek system. The decision emerged as one between Dean Krishna '01, Student Assembly veteran, and write-in Drew Pluhar '00, both affiliated but with different levels of support, or more accurately, resistance to the Social and Residential Life Initiative.

Pluhar, a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity, tended to attract students with a more staunchly opposed position on the Trustees' initiative. But without his name on the ballot and with a shortened campaign due to his late entry into the race, Pluhar struggled to gain the votes necessary to catch Krishna, and instead managed only to illustrate the increasing splintering between members of the Greek system over their degrees of opposition.

Because of his write-in candidacy the rest of Pluhar's platform was not as widely known as other candidates, and his pro-Greek stance overshadowed his views on other issues. Krishna, on the other hand, formulated a more moderate position on the future of the Greeks, as well as mostly moderate opinions on other campus concerns.

Also, the 18-year-old environmental studies major spent time developing other aspects of his platform including reformation of the Assembly itself, which Krishna felt could be more attentive to the student body input.

Krishna received only 33 percent of the votes cast. He was followed by Pluhar's 21 percent. That the two top presidential contenders and the vice president-elect (Margaret Kuecker '01, a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority) belong to Greek houses is clearly a reflection of the student body's opinion of a need for Greek representation in the historically nonaffiliated Student Assembly.

Kuecker was excited at this prospect, however. Speaking with the knowledge from her prior experience on the Assembly, she said that in the past it "ended up being anti-Greek," but that with the election of her and Krishna, "that will be hard to prove."

Some students have already expressed their concerns that the Assembly will retain that attitude. One student who wished to remain anonymous, said he was not happy with the candidates because "none of them sounded like they really were going to get things done." Other affiliated students felt that while Krishna is a member of a Greek house (Sigma Phi Epsilon), his stance on their preservation was not strong enough.

Of course, there are other issues that come into play, as Krishna himself pointed out.

While he agreed that "the number one issue, of course, were the frats," he pointed out that there are things voters, affiliated and independent, look for in all the candidates, such as leadership they demonstrated during the campaign. Krishna said he was able to gain many votes through his years on Assembly and the people he has met through their programs and committees -- "I've made a lot of friends," he said.

Assembly president Josh Green '00 dismissed the importance of Krishna's small percentage. Ultimately, he said, "what matters is how you do in office," not the election numbers.

But even Green, who won more than 50 percent of the vote last year, has been hampered by his inability to claim a broad base of support -- a fact which diminished his power in the eyes of an administration who could not see him as speaking for a large majority of the student body.

And Krishna's numbers are even smaller -- the lowest since the 1995 election when Jim Rich '96 won with 32 percent.

But coupled with the record high number of votes cast, they represent not only the divided nature of the campus between visions of the College's future social system, but an increase in campus-wide involvement.

The latter is what had executive Assembly members, both present and future, excited.

"It says great things about SA, the candidates, and the EPAC," [Election Planning Action Committee] said Green.

"The Student Assembly will have legitimacy," said Kuecker, a claim the newly elected vice president made despite the fact that more than 50 percent of voters in both races voted against the candidates who won

While the meaning of the election's high turnout and close races is unclear, one fact remains obvious -- without a voter mandate and with a campus and an Assembly divided over the Greek issue, Krishna will have to struggle to find the broad base of support necessary to claim he speaks for the student body as a whole.