Claremont McKenna College Dorm Affairs Chair (DAC) Alexandra Cooke CM ’14 stepped down from her position at the beginning of the year, sparking several controversies around the college.
The most obvious point of contention came in the election to replace Cooke between candidates Abby Michaelsen CM ’15 and Evan Otis CM ’13. Otis dressed up in a banana costume during his pre-election speech, but Michaelsen edged him out on the vote by a narrow margin of 51 to 49 percent.
The Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) held the replacement election on the same day as the first-year class presidential election, leading some students to question whether the first-year class had an inordinate impact on the election due to their increased turnout.
“I personally don’t think it’s a good thing that freshmen overweighed it,” Sam O’Braitis CM ’16 said. “I heard some grumblings from upperclass students about Abby winning. I feel like freshmen don’t really have an accurate view on what a DAC should do and what their job is, and we just kind of voted because we were there.”
The Forum, CMC’s online student publication, did not cover the controversy surrounding the DAC election scheduling, despite the fact that the website’s comment sections were filled with students complaining about first-years having an improper amount of influence on the election. Some commenters speculated that the Forum‘s coverage of the election was limited because of the website’s relationship with ASCMC.
The Forum gets much of its funding from ASCMC—a financial arrangement similar to the one between TSL and the Associated Students of Pomona College. The Forum is also linked to the CMC student government through the ASCMC Advisory Council, on which a position is reserved for the Forum editor-in-chief.
“It is a weird relationship because it’s the student government and the paper being connected,” Forum Managing Editor Sean McQueen CM ’13 said. “We are aware of the fact that it is kind of weird, and it’s something that we’re sort of sensitive about in terms of making sure that we’re extra careful not to appear influenced by ASCMC.”
McQueen said that the Forum can still write about issues concerning the student government without fear of repercussions.
“An article has never been pulled because ASCMC didn’t want it,” McQueen said. “There have been some things where it’s like, we publish something that is negative against ASCMC and they’re offended that we published it, but we’ve never pulled anything because they didn’t want us to write it. We have full editorial decision-making power.”
“I think they do try to do the most unbiased job that they can,” Ted Hall CM ’16 said of the Forum. “There could be a conflict of interest, but I feel like a lot of writers try to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
McQueen also said that there are no immediate plans to change the system in which the two organizations operate.
“Is this model probably not a good way to set up a paper in general? Yes,” McQueen said. “But, I would say that the way that we’ve handled it is extra sensitive to these issues and making sure that we don’t have a conflict of interest.”
ASCMC representatives could not be reached for comment before press time.