Reforming Stuco Elections

Nina Cushman '25, Contributors

With the start of a new academic year comes yet another Student Council (StuCo) election. Most are familiar with the controversy of Loomis Chaffee’s StuCo voting process, where candidates are directly voted in by their respective constituents after presenting a 5-minute speech.
Frequently described as “popularity contests,” many would argue that such an approach to StuCo elections fails to reflect a candidate’s commitment, as well as the merit of their ideas. But, are these elections really as unfair as many seem to believe? Can we make changes to our election system to ensure that the students elected are driven and diligent? I believe that while our current election system isn’t perfect, it is the best option.
Firstly, one must recognize that student inclinations to vote on friendship, or popularity, are inevitable. Some emphasize that the current system encourages voting along arbitrary reasons such as “popularity” or “funniness.” Thus, people who are most committed to the role would not necessarily win StuCo elections. Yet, opposing election alternatives would not solve any of these present problems. No matter how bureaucratic the voting process becomes, inherent biases among friend groups will exist as long as StuCo positions are determined by the student popular vote.
Furthermore, it can be argued that our current election system is not professional or thorough enough. However, it is thanks to the simplicity of our current system that the focus on popularity and funniness is minimized. If we were to, for instance, campaign through posters or heavily promote one another on social media, then the election would only become less about an individual’s ideas and goals, and more about their slogans.
For insight on the authoritative perspective of StuCo elections, I reached out to Dean Mike Donegan to learn about his point of view on LC’s election system.
“The tricky thing is that underclassmen specifically don’t know their class as well, so the most well known people tend to draw the most attention and votes. I ask and try to make it clear that students should not vote for the people who are the funniest or most popular, but the people whose ideas they like the most,” he said when asked about the issue of voting based on popularity. When it comes to preventing students from voting biasedly, this is the most that authority can do.
Additionally, I asked Dean Donegan about other possible election systems and if he thought this one was an effective means of voting in the strongest and most committed candidates. To paraphrase his response, he thought that this system has worked well for the years he has been at LC, and seems to be the best system that we know of. He articulated that if there was another potential election system, the deans and faculty affiliated with StuCo would be happy to look into it. However, our current system was the ideal option from his perspective.
I also reached out to Michaela Howe ’25, a boarding representative in StuCo. When asked about her opinion on the fairness of our election system, she replied, “As a whole, I think the elections are pretty fair considering how difficult it is to get a completely accurate read of who’s the best candidate.”
She went on to say how she doesn’t see any other systems working, and that, like Dean Donegan, that this seems to be the best option.