We have seen a year with little progress made in advancing students’ rights. The election of current leaders Eddie Zilberbrand and Keiran Carpen was without a popular mandate and marred by controversy, which is justified. As The Spectator pointed out in a recent editorial, Zilberbrand and Carpen failed to follow through on most of their promises and effectively left the student body with little representation for a full year.
It is with this in mind that The Editorial Board has chosen to endorse Gabriel Rosen and Justin Kong for the Student Union presidency. In a vote among the editorial board, the result was close when deciding what action we should take—not close in that an equal number of editors was divided between the tickets of Rosen and Kong, Carpen and Jonathan Aung or Wei Lin and Joyce Lee, but close in that we nearly opted to endorse nobody at all. In none of the candidacies did we see a promise of true reform or the wherewithal to actively combat a reticent administration. And thus, we fell back upon Rosen and Kong, whom we believe to be, if not inspiring, then at least better than the rest—better than the ineffective Carpen and the inexperienced Lin.
Above all, what Rosen and Kong promise to bring to the table is the possibility of change. Rosen, whose main leadership experience is that he is president of the Stuyvesant Young Democrats Club, is clearly dominant in the pair, his presence dwarfing that of the demure Kong. Indeed, Kong’s lack of leadership experience at Stuyvesant is very concerning. As for Rosen, a passionate speaker, he seems to have drawn from his experience in city politics to craft his platform, the main objectives being a Homeroom Board Senate, a Congress of Student Organizations (CSO), and teaching the student body general governmental practices.
However, the idea of a Homeroom Board Senate, which Rosen and Kong promise will “be pivotal in instilling a sense of civic duty and school pride throughout the Stuyvesant student body, and will work to enhance and preserve the character of the school’s many unique communities” (according to their campaign page), seems likely to be dysfunctional. It is difficult already for the caucuses to recruit a single representative from each homeroom, and if Rosen and Kong intend to task the Homeroom Board Senate with drafting proposals, we are likely to see little progress. It also marks a devolution in the powers of the SU president and vice-president, which raises the question of how forceful Rosen and Kong intend to be should they be elected. This plan, alongside the other two components of their platform, the CSO and general government practices, fail to directly address the real concerns of Stuyvesant students.
Therein lies the real problem with Rosen and Kong’s campaign. In few of their Facebook posts or on their website, and barely in their interview with The Spectator’s Managing Board, have they proposed concrete actions that they would take to ameliorate student life. And when they have, it often has felt like mere lip service to the common grievances students express, such as not being able to go outside during frees and being able to sit around on more floors than just one and two. Teaching students how to vote is unique and it is ambitious, but it has no tangible impact on daily life at Stuyvesant. The campaign is a politician’s campaign—high on rhetoric of “civic duty” and “democractic ideals,” but low on implementable policy.
At least Rosen and Kong have provided the student body with an alternative to the incumbent Carpen, if not much else. If reform comes, it will come through the challengers, and we have no reason yet to believe that Rosen and Kong will fail to fulfill promises as Zilberbrand and Carpen did. In fact, they have already begun reaching out to other SUs across the city, and Townshend Harris is on board with Rosen’s ideas. And while Rosen’s platform might be low on substance, he was certainly able to explain it to the Editorial Board with resounding passion, an aptitude that would likely come in handy when dealing with the administration.
Rosen’s idea to create a CSO is also an interesting and easily implementable one. If the leaders of many influential clubs can meet regularly and combine their hopes to improve student life into a common goal, the student body may find itself more powerful than if the SU was the only organization pushing for change.
In the end, even if Rosen and Kong were to fail once elected—a big possibility—we are certain that they would have, at the very least, tried, because even though Rosen seems a politician, he seems a politician who possesses a unique vision for our school. Since the choice is between a ticket that has proven it will accomplish nothing, and one that at least stands a chance of doing something, we hope to see Rosen and Kong as our president and vice-president after June 13’s final election.