Student Council President and Vice President 2016-2017

This spring, newly-elected Student Council President Cecilia Zhou ’17 and Vice President Namsai Sethpornpong ’17, will assume their positions and lead the school into the 2016-2017 academic year.

In the all-school meeting on Wednesday, February 10, ten rising seniors stood on the main stage of the Paul Mellon Arts Center (PMAC) to deliver their Student Council speeches. The polls for Student Council President and Vice President opened on Thursday and closed that evening. On Friday morning, candidates were notified of the results, and Dean of Students Mr. James Stanley announced the results to the rest of the community during community lunch.

The Zhou-Sethpornpong administration is, in a variety of ways, unlike many previous Student Council administrations. Most notably, the 2016 – 2017 Student Council President and Vice President are both female students. The last time female students held both Student Council positions was seven years ago, when Nikita Iyer ’10 and Yatta Zoker ’10 were Student Council President and Vice President, respectively. Furthermore, while most candidates ran for both President and Vice President, Zhou and Sethpornpong were the only two who ran solely for their respective positions. President Zhou said, “When I examined the roles of President and Vice President, I noticed that they are, in fact, two very different roles. Essentially, I felt that I wouldn’t be the best candidate for the role of Vice President. It didn’t feel like the right fit for me.”

Likewise, Vice President Sethpornpong ’17 explained, “I chose to run for Vice President over President because the President doesn’t get to vote on any of the decisions made in the Council. For example, on a decision that was as contentious as expanding suffrage to the entire school, the vote was 6-5. It passed, but it was one vote that made the difference—and the President had no vote in that. This experience made me realize that I still want to be able to vote on huge decisions.”

As Sethpornpong mentioned, earlier this winter, the Student Council unanimously decided to extend the 2016-2017 Student Council President and Vice President voting to the underclassmen; thus, rising fourth, fifth, and sixth formers all participated in the electoral process. According to data gathered by the Student Council, 66% of the 172 rising fourth formers, 75% of the 212 rising fifth formers, and 73% of the 241 rising sixth formers casted their votes in this year’s election.

In order to better educate the voters about the candidates’ personalities, qualifications, and visions for the school’s future, Student Council made several modifications to the election. First, each candidate was given two minutes, instead of the previous ninety-second time allotment, to deliver a speech in front of the student body.

Another addition to the electoral process was a panel discussion led by current sixth-form representatives. Following the speeches, students were encouraged to attend the discussion on Wednesday evening to become more acquainted with the candidates. Because of various scheduling conflicts, however, the discussion started forty-five minutes later than it was originally planned, at 6:15 p.m. According to Dr. Martini, co-adviser to the Student Council, between 50 to 60 people sat in on the first half of the panel, and between 35 to 45 people attended the second half. The panel discussion was also live-streamed on Facebook. She observed, “I thought the panelists were very well-prepared and well-spoken. Additionally, I thought the sixth-form representatives did a great job brainstorming and delivering the questions. It was really nice to hear each candidate speak so many times about so many topics in a more relaxed setting. It felt a lot less rehearsed, so perhaps the student body was able to get more of their personality and who they really are.”

Sethpornpong commented, “I liked the idea behind having the panel because the two-minute speeches are not sufficient to really understand the candidates. However, I do wish we hadn’t pushed back the time because more people would have shown up. It would’ve been so much better, in terms of accessibility, to have it at 5:30 p.m., when everyone could have shown up. Regardless, I really applaud all the candidates this year. Everyone gave amazing speeches and had amazing ideas.”

For the 2016-2017 Student Council, Zhou stressed the importance of carrying out initiatives with proactivity and a constant strive for improvement. She said, “More than anything, without going into particular policies that I want to enact, the overall vibe that I want to achieve is one of constantly pushing for change and for improvement. I think this mentality comes out of my experience in a racing sport. As a swimmer, I always have to set goals and strive to achieve them. And once I do achieve them, I set another one. Another bigger, better goal. That’s the kind of mentality that I want to bring to the Council.”

She also expressed interest in improving transparency and encouraging discourse between the student body and the Student Council. To do so, she aims to form a greater partnership with The Choate News. “One of the most basic ideas would be for us to have a column that lays out our agenda points from our meeting on Monday meetings. Beyond that, we’re thinking about encouraging Op-Eds about the policies that we’re debating, or having polls to show support for or contention against the ideas we bring up.” In addition, Zhou hopes to increase overall school spirit and pride, as well as modifying visitation rules so they accurately reflects the diversity and the values of the current student body.

Sethpornpong will join Zhou to help execute Zhou’s initiatives, and Sethpornpong will also be performing her own duties as Vice President. She stated, “I want to do everything I can for the Daily Grind, just like what YJ and Eugene have done in the past. I will talk to both students and SAGE about different foods that we can have in the Grind. Also, I want to bring the Daily Grind to sports games and other social events so that we have a greater student presence in these events.

Zhou concluded by inviting the student body to express its ideas and concerns: “I’d like to emphasize that people on Student Council are just regular students. We’re your classmates, we’re your teammates, we’re your clubmates. All we want to do is to be able to express your desires and your concerns to the administration. If you have anything you want to say, or anything you want to see the administration address, please come bring it to us. We want to fulfill our roles as best we can.”

One Comment

  1. Wow! Congrats, you two.

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