Washington wins FAC chair special election

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New Financial Affairs Committee Chair Ellen Washington, ‘14. Photo by Jiayin Qu, ‘17.

New Financial Affairs Committee Chair Ellen Washington, ‘14. Photo by Jiayin Qu, ‘17.
New Financial Affairs Committee Chair Ellen Washington, ‘14. Photo by Jiayin Qu, ‘17.

With 303 out of the 572 total votes, the student body elected Ellen Washington ’14 to the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) chair in the second special election of the semester.

“I’m excited that the FAC is finally back on track,” Washington said.

Washington won over two other candidates, Bassem El-Remesh ’16 and Benas Klastaitis ’15. El Remesh and Klastaitis are both current members of the FAC and will continue to serve for the year. Washington said the position could have been just as easily filled by a number of other people.

“Benas and Bassem were super well-equipped,” she said. “I’m still upset that Adinah isn’t leading FAC. She is the most well-equipped.”

According to MCSG bylaws, the winning candidate must win 50 percent of the votes cast, plus one extra individual vote. Each voting student ranks the candidates in order of preference. A first round of vote counting determines whether there is a clear winner of first choice votes alone. If this is not the case, the candidate with the fewest votes is removed and second choice votes are counted for each remaining candidate. After three rounds, Washington won over El Remesh with 52.9 percent of the total votes.

According to El Remesh, the results were not surprising. He said he did not expect to win, but ran out of a sense of duty.

“Not winning was probably good for me,” he said. “I ran because I felt a responsibility to MCSG.”

Klastaitis wrote in an email that the election would not affect his service to the committee.

“I was working in the committee when Kate [Hamilton, 2012-13 FAC chair] was there,” he wrote. “Then Adinah and now Ellen; as long as I can help the committee do its job, it doesn’t matter who’s running it.”

El Remesh and Klastaitis say they support Washington because of her past experiences and leadership abilities.

“I would have been surprised if I won,” El Remesh said. “I knew Ellen was more prepared.”

“I think Ellen was a strong candidate and I have full trust in her as the new chair,” Klastaitis wrote. “She is highly familiar with the MCSG procedures and she knows its members, which should reduce the transition costs.”

Dean of Students Jim Hoppe said the experience and qualifications of each candidate were important for the position. According to Hoppe, the position has a steep learning curve.

“To have three such qualified candidates for a special election was great,” he said. “No matter what, the FAC was going to be in good hands.”

He also said voter turnout was good considering the unusual nature of the election.

“For some classes this was the third election,” he said, referencing the special election that took place for two sophomore representative positions and the freshman class representative election that both took place earlier in the semester. “I think there tends to be some election fatigue.”

MCSG President Kai Wilson ’14 said that the numbers were comparable to similar schools during their regular elections.

Hoppe credited the Election Procedures Committee with facilitating the election process smoothly. He said the committee managed an unforeseen technical issue very well. Despite sending the ballot to the student announcement listserv and individual class listservs, several students did not receive it.

Neither the Registrar Reporting Specialist Addy Free nor Associate Director for Administration of Information Technology Services David Sisk noticed problems with the announcement lists within their departments.

“I talked to the Registrar and ITS and it sounded like all the emails went out,” Hoppe said. “Individuals set up filters and that can block email messages.”

MCSG Vice President Rothin Datta ’16 said he was not concerned with the problem moving forward. He credited visible outreach methods with balancing the circulation issue.

“There was no effect on voter turnout,” Datta said. “By tabling, we targeted meal plan people.”

Wilson said he was happy to now be able to move forward with all of MCSG at full strength.

“It’s been mayham the first few weeks,” he said. “I think voting season has passed us and we can get back to business as usual.”

Washington started working as the MCSG secretary this semester. She attended meetings for the Executive Board, Legislative Board and Financial Affairs Committee. She will continue in that position for another two weeks while she transitions into the FAC position.

“I will try to do it for the next two weeks, but after that I will burn out,” she said. “It is impossible to take part and take minutes.”

In addition to the open secretary position, MCSG will be hiring a bookkeeper to assist the FAC with organization budgets.

Washington missed the passage of block budgeting that took effect last semester during her leave of absence for the academic year and is still learning several skills for the chair position. She has a lot to catch up on, but she credited Robin Hart Ruthenbeck with filling in the gaps during the transition.

“Robin Hart Ruthenbeck has been amazing,” she said. “She has done so much that is not her job.”

Hart Ruthenbeck said she wanted to ensure everything was up to date when the new FAC chair stepped into the role. Additionally, she met with Washington Thursday to bring her up to speed.

“In the interim nothing fell by the way,” Hart Ruthenbeck said. “So [Washington] has the best chance to get off to a smooth start.”

Washington attended her first Executive Board meeting Monday night, after a celebratory glass of wine. She led her first FAC meeting Tuesday afternoon and is working on getting to know members and how best to divvy up the work.

“Starting the semester feeling like we need to catch up sucks,” she said. “But it is not fair to orgs. We need to move quickly.”