ASWC candidates embrace change

Junior Elliot Okantey will be the new ASWC president next year after the election last week.   He is joined by Executive Council elects David Changa-Moon, Roman Goerss, Rachel Stein and Julia Nelson.

Okantey ran against sophomore Larsen Close.   Close’s campaign centered around his role as an outsider from ASWC coupled by a promise to stir things up.

“I’ve repeatedly read [student government] constitutions of Harvard, Stanford, Williams, Princeton and Pomona.   I’ve heard that the ASWC constitution typically gets overhauled every five to eight years.   It wouldn’t be that long for me,” said Close during the presidential debate that was held in front of a crowd of about 30 people in Olin on April 8.

“If you don’t want ASWC to proceed in the same fashion I can promise you that with me as president, it won’t,” he said.

Okantey also sees the necessity for change within ASWC, particularly in the organization’s relationship to the administration.

“[I want to see ASWC] maintaining our autonomy.   We should be doing more things independent of the administration.   I’d like to see the administration meet us halfway.   As finance chair I saw ASWC paying for too many things that it shouldn’t,” said Okantey. He gave the example of when ASWC was asked to pick up the cost of the art majors’ trip to New York, which was normally covered by the president’s discretionary fund.

“We’re glad to help our fellow students out in a pinch, but in the long term, that’s not our role,” said Okantey.

ASWC’s role is especially disconcerting for Whitman student and Walla Walla resident Ben Spencer.

“When I was in high school we looked at Whitman students like they were on a different planet,” Spencer said. “Larsen [Close] wants to have a town liaison talking to Walla Walla University and Walla Walla Community College where a lot of people from town go to school.     I think that’s really important because Whitman is prestigious and it has an obligation to the town. There are good people on both sides of the field and their needs to be some common understanding.

Whitman students are visitors in Walla Walla and should respect that.”

Both candidates also led very distinctive campaigns. Close’s campaign was known around campus for its Web site larsenclose.com, which contained a biography, platforms and a video of Close skiing as a child. The Okantey campaign was characterized by a lack thereof.

“I think I have a pretty neat Facebook group.   I don’t get what the big deal is,” said Okantey during the debates.   He also noted that his “commitment to ASWC is tangible in a lot of ways other than my campaign,” such as his role as finance chair and his three years of involvement with ASWC.

After president, the next most hotly contested position was nominations chair.   Junior Julia Nelson defeated runner-up junior Justin Hayashi by only three points.   According to the ASWC election rules, elections for the executive council are decided by the instant runoff voting method, which means that when there is no majority, the third candidate is eliminated and second choice votes then count for the remaining two candidates.




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