In response to complaints that the Interhouse Committee (IHC) is “a waste of time” and “unable and unwilling to pursue long-term policy goals,” the IHC chair defended the committee during a press conference this afternoon. Catherine Jamshidi, IHC Chair and ASCIT Vice-President of Non-Academic Affairs, noted that efforts are stymied by an nine-month-long transition period while the committee turns over. “I feel like we accomplish a lot when you consider that we only have about three months to do actual work,” said Jamshidi. “The first house election happens in January, and the last doesn’t finish until early October. We have to spend a whole nine months of the year training the new house presidents before we can get down to work.”
The IHC is composed of the eight house presidents, a chair, and a secretary. While the chair is selected in a campus-wide election, the presidents are elected by their individual houses, which have broad latitude to set their election date. In 2012, a proposal put forth by concerned students to “standardize the presidential election period to a two-week period in February” was voted down by the student body. “I can’t possibly imagine having our elections in February,” said Jessica Hernandez, Lloyd ’17. “Our elections are timed to coincide with the spring solstice, a time of rebirth and life. It’s objectively the right time to elect a new excomm.”
Other students felt similarly about their houses’ election cycles. “Our elections happen on Super Bowl Sunday, to illustrate our supreme apathy towards sportsball, or handegg, or whatever happens during the Super Bowl,” said Justin Khan, Dabney ’18. He added, “pretending to know nothing about sports is a time-honored Caltech tradition.” Ravi Rhakil, Avery ’16, appealed to common sense during an interview with The Torch, saying “how can we possibly hold elections before the new academic year? That just doesn’t make any sense.” One student, who asked to remain anonymous, said they would consider legal action against the IHC chair, ASCIT, the Institute, and possibly the State of California if the date of their house election was changed.
Once new presidents are elected, they take some time to “learn the ropes,” said Jamshidi in an interview with The Torch. “With a president elected every month or so, there’s just no way to get work done until mid-October.” Proposals to fix the problem abound; some have proposed a complicated arrangement in which incoming and outgoing house presidents alternate attending meetings and share an email account to provide a smoother transition, while others have suggested that house presidents be represented during the transition by a “senior president” who would be elected every 18 months. Jamshidi concluded the interview by pointing out that “whatever we do, it’s going to face very real pushback. Every house is unique, and it’s ludicrous to suggest that houses separated by as much as an Avery can agree on something as complicated as an election date.”