Reginald Patterson wins trustee election runoff
For an event that much of the Oberlin student population seems only vaguely aware of, the annual election of the graduating class trustee is a surprisingly complicated process. The primary ballot of candidates, voted on in the spring, usually yields the names of the two candidates with the highest number of votes; final ballot voting in early fall decides between them.
The election process for the class trustee of 2005 was further convoluted this past June when one of the primary ballot winners, Rashné Limki, announced that she was taking a job with the College. Oberlin employees are ineligible for trustee positions, so Limki was out of the running.
To fill the empty slot she left on the final ballot, election coordinators turned to the third-ranked person on the original list only to discover that two candidates had tied for third. The final ballot thus presented three candidates: Reginald Patterson, Laura Bellows and Morgan Shelton.
The results of the election, announced to the Board of Trustees on Sept. 14, show a clear winner in Patterson.
He received 84 out of 191 valid ballots cast, a 43 percent chunk that put the election in his lap. Voters from the Classes of 2004, 2005 and 2006, all of whom are eligible for final ballot voting, cast 213 ballots total. While the participation rate for class trustee elections tends to be low — in the past six years, it has never gone above 23 percent — this year’s rate of 13 percent was particularly measly, down four percent from last year and certain to drag down the year-to-year average.
Fortunately for voters and abstainers alike, Patterson seems undaunted and excited by the responsibility he is about to take on. While a student at Oberlin, Patterson studied in both the College and the Conservatory and came out with degrees in French and viola performance and a minor in African American Studies. He worked extensively with the Oberlin College Dialogue Center and also served time as a residential assistant in French House.
“I was interested in being a class trustee because I feel that I’ve had a very diverse experience at Oberlin,” Patterson said, citing in particular his status as a double-degree student and his experience working with the Dialogue Center.
The major personal goal Patterson stressed for his three-year term on the Oberlin Board of Trustees was, simply put, “communication.”
“What I’m really interested in is increasing communication,” he said. “I want the college to continue to communicate with the students about what’s going on” behind the scenes at Oberlin, and to “continue to work on responsiveness to student concerns.”
One of the ways Patterson himself will try to encourage this development is through the forum held by the class trustees at each of the three board meetings during the school year.
“Students can come and talk to class trustees at that point,” he said. “Most colleges don’t have a class trustee. It’s very special that Oberlin has that and students should know that and take advantage of that.”
Bob Haslun, secretary of the College, said that the class trustee positions — there are three at any given time, since the term lasts three years — were created in 1971 “in order to [help the Board] hear from recent graduates the concerns and opinions of the undergraduate student body.”
At the same time, Haslun noted that “it has always been made clear that the class trustees do not ‘represent’ only this constituency.”
Indeed, Patterson will have essentially the same responsibilities as his fellow trustees, which he sees as supporting and assessing the president, dealing with “long-range plans” and “putting together the financial issues as well as academic issues of Oberlin.” One particularly important task for the Board right now, he said, is the implementation of the Strategic Plan approved toward the end of last semester.
In summing up his future as a class trustee, Patterson’s comments held the sentiment of giving back to the Oberlin community he spent five years as a member of.
“I still feel like I’m an Oberlin student,” he said.
“I’m fresh out of Oberlin and so it still means a lot to me.”