February 8 2018

SG & ISP charter new international house

Student Government passed 8R11, a proposal for a house for international students on campus, on Dec. 6. Senior Simona Andreas, EVP of Global Engagement, submitted the proposal to the SG board and was one of the proposal’s greatest advocates.

Similar to the way that Shalom House is under the under the leadership and direction of Rodney Sisco in the Office of Multicultural Development (OMD), the International House will be under the leadership and direction of Jerry Woehr in the office for International Student Programs (ISP). Andreas mentioned that both Shalom House and the International House were based on similar houses at Messiah College.

Andreas, an international student from Estonia, said the vision for the International House came from her experience of being hosted  by a group of senior women international students who lived in an off-campus townhouse during her freshman year. “Their door was literally unlocked 24/7 because they were there and open for any and all international students to just come and hang out in their space. They had really good coffee, really good tea, really good rice, the real rice and their space was just open for breaks and for movie nights.”

According to the proposal, the purpose of the International House is “to extend, enrich and add to the care that the ISP office already provides,” as well as provide, “cultural relief” for international students.

Two Michigan/Crescent apartments will be designated as International Student apartments. ISP has accepted 12 applications for the International Apartments. Eight students — four female and four male — will live in these apartments and host other international students.

Andreas described the International Apartments as a trial. Based upon how the new program goes during the 2018-2019 school year, ISP will be able to better evaluate whether and how to  continue the program. Although there has been no formal guarantee, Andreas is hopeful that the International Apartments will transition into an International House.

SG to switch to ranked-choice voting to elect 2018-2019 board

The Student Government board is changing the way it holds elections going forward beginning this spring. When students go to vote for the new board after Spring Break, for each position they will rank each of the candidates according to their preferences — ranked choice voting (RCV). The proposal, passed Nov. 15, was submitted by sophomore Jessa Potvin, EVP of Educational Policies.

With RCV, after the initial votes are counted, if there is no majority, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated. However, the ballots for the eliminated candidate are still in play. Rather than having a run-off election, the second preferences of those who cast a ballot for the candidate with the fewest votes will be allocated to the remaining candidates. If one of the remaining candidates gains a majority, then the election is over. However, if after reallocating the votes, there is still no candidate with a majority, the candidate with the next fewest number of votes will be eliminated and the second preferences for the ballots cast will be reallocated.

Wheaton’s Student Government elections have operated with a “first-past-the-post majority” voting system, meaning only the candidate who collects the majority of votes wins. With this election system, if there is no majority, a run-off election is held.

Potvin explained that in the past, run-off elections have had very low voter participation, which is part of the reason she has advocated for RCV as a simpler and “more democratic” way to hold elections. Potvin was specifically concerned with the first-past-the-post majority system because it allows a much smaller portion of the student body to determine the outcome of the election. She noted that by the time SG holds run-off elections, “students begin to lose interest in voting.”

Sophomore Tyler Waaler, a co-sponsor of the proposal, told the Record that ranked-choice voting “struck me as a really, really good idea.” Waaler recounted that his freshman year at Wheaton, when he ran to be a class officer, there was an 84-84-84 deadlock between the top three candidate teams. As one of the teams who tied for first, he went on to the second round of voting. Fewer people voted in the run-off election, and ultimately he lost the election for freshman class officer.

Both Potvin and Waaler took Comparative Politics with professor of International Relations Tim Taylor, where they were able to study multiple election mechanisms in-depth, including first-past-the-post majority and ranked-choice voting. Potvin had been familiar with ranked choice voting even before she came to Wheaton and saw an opportunity to implement it in Student Government elections.

Waaler said, “We were able to look at a more efficient more representative system that would make elections less costly for both the candidates and the students.”

Campus-wide elections will be held March 21, and class officer elections will be held on March 28.