In an unprecedented decision, Pitzer College’s Student Senate announced Wednesday evening that it would scrap the votes already cast in its ongoing student body election, planning to start anew following spring break. The senate’s election committee made the choice in light of allegations surrounding two of the three candidates for senate president.
Voting had begun Saturday for the roles of president, vice president of internal affairs and vice president of finance, scheduled to close Friday at 11:59 p.m. No candidates had yet been approved for the vice president of student engagement nor the vice president of external affairs positions, the elections committee said Saturday.
In a statement Wednesday, the committee said concerns about candidates had been raised both privately and publicly, leading to its decision to restart the vote. Candidates for all positions will have to resubmit an application to get on the ballot.
Emphasizing the senate’s lack of experience to address allegations to this extent, the elections committee added that it would pass concerns to administrators to direct how to proceed with the concerns raised by students.
“We are taking the concerns very seriously and are disheartened by the alleged actions of our community leaders and some executive board candidates,” the committee said. “We do not condone their alleged behavior and are in contact with the Pitzer College administration to conduct further investigations.”
On Pitzer’s student talk listserv Monday, one presidential candidate acknowledged “discomfort and distrust in myself that it seems I have created amongst some of our BIPOC students,” both for what another student called microaggressions during a first-year class and “claim[ing] credit for the work of my fellow BIPOC senators.”
On Wednesday, a student sent an anonymous statement to the listserv detailing accusations that another presidential candidate had made an underclassman uncomfortable through repeated text messages.
Although an election in progress has not been thrown out and restarted in recent memory, current Pitzer Senate President Kaila Teague PZ ’22 believed it was the best response to make.
“This is not something that any of us have ever dealt with before, so we didn’t really know exactly how to proceed,” Teague told TSL.
Seeking advice from the senate’s advisor, a position currently held by Pitzer’s Dean of Campus Life Alayna Session-Goins, the committee worked to consider how it could progress within the confines of the senate’s constitution.
Current bylaws allow for the election committee to determine the timeline of elections, as long as they are held at least two weeks after the schedule is determined.
Still, holding a new election entirely is not currently covered under the senate constitution.
“As Student Senators, we have the ability to amend the Elections Committee Bylaws with the approval of the Pitzer College Student Senate,” the committee’s statement said. “The Elections Committee Bylaws will be reviewed after Spring Break to clarify the expectations of both candidates and members of the Pitzer community.”
With no past precedents to refer to, Teague said the committee grappled with how best to move forward and ultimately settled on scrapping the election altogether in order to let the current candidates reflect on their “impact on the community and decide whether or not president or any other [senate] positions was going to be right for them.”
“We made this extraordinary step because we didn’t want students to feel as though their vote was gonna have to go to one of those candidates or another, if they did not feel comfortable with that as events kind of developed over time,” Teague said.
Restarting the election will allow students to make better informed decisions when the election is re-held next week, she added.
“I am very proud of the elections committee for being able to come up with this decision … [given that] there were plenty of students who may have casted their ballots beforehand and they wanted to switch, and that’s not something that we were able to do,” Teague said.
Teague added that the senate will look to improve the election committee bylaws over spring break to prepare if similar incidents arise in the future, adding that there’s currently “a lot of nuance” that doesn’t cover particular scenarios, making it difficult to “know how to really move forward.”
The application window to enter the new race will open the week of spring break, closing March 20. A town hall debate between the new candidates will be hosted virtually March 21 while voting is set to close three days later.
Jenna McMurtry PO ’24 currently serves as a news editor for TSL.