Comfortability is not the cause: Counter to SA election op-ed


Arman Manternach ’27 is a prospective finance and international relations major. He is a member of young independents, WM Equestrian, and WM Clay Target. Contact him at

Nicholas Valyayev ’27 is a prospective government and sociology major. He is a member of the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity and Club Fencing. Contact him at

Philip Feaster ’27 is a prospective history major and integrated conservation minor. He is a member of Young Independents, WM Clay Target, and WM Equestrian. Contact him at

Hunter White ’27 is a prospective government major interested in national security. He is a member of WM Debate Society and was an interim senator in the Student Assembly. Contact him at 

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own. 

This piece is a response to “Student Assembly election reveals deeper problems at College” by Crystal Wang, which has been the subject of much discussion over the past two weeks. We encourage everyone to read it themselves if they haven’t already. This piece is not a personal attack against Wang. We seek to address and refute assertions made in the article that we find problematic. And hey, just “so [we’re] not flamed,” be advised that the authors of this piece condemn attacks made against Wang (or anyone for that matter) that focus on their person rather than their ideas.

Wang’s opinion piece is alarmingly out of touch. It suggests a far greater divide among our student body on vital issues than exists in reality. Wang artificially pits Multi-Cultural Organizations and other student organizations against each other on issues relevant to every member of our student body. 

Suggesting that any group of students is a lock to vote for certain candidates misses the point of the democratic process. Making assertions like “the majority of the student body … didn’t care enough to vote against the campaign endorsed by organizations who don’t challenge white liberal comfort” unfairly places intent on votes. It not only implies that the central goal in the minds of every Chang/Aqeel voter as they clicked “vote” was challenging “white liberal comfort,” it also implies that students who voted for the winning ticket care little about the voices of MCOs.

Generalizations like these are the antithesis to reason. They torpedo the believability of Wang’s narrative, which elsewhere encourages individuals to “take a look for yourself and come to your own decision.” Accusing people of being uncaring simply because they reached a different decision than you is nonsensical. It underscores a larger problem in this article of Wang labeling people because they voted one way or another. Wang’s defense of this obvious problem is likewise suspect: “I’m not calling most students at this school racist.” So, dear reader, if you are like “most students,” you are “incredibly white” and don’t “care enough,” but at least you’re not racist!

Another concerning trend is Wang’s scolding of the student body for what she perceives are its shortcomings based on the election results. Many of these statements are condescending and the result of emotional speculation rather than a reasonable analysis of students’ voting intentions. For instance, Wang professes that she is “sure most people just voted for who they know and who their organizations endorsed.” This is a new spin on the recurring claim that our students do not have the independence and wherewithal to vote of their own accord in a student election. Student assembly minutes, she reminds us, are easy to find; “it takes three seconds to look them up and the ‘control-F’ feature is a helpful tool,” which, again, alleges that students are incapable of being informed voters.

Worse still are her attacks on the perceived majority of “comfortable white liberals,” who she insinuates are hellbent on keeping campus minorities suppressed. In just her second paragraph, Wang says: “This election has made it abundantly clear that this school and its students are, in fact, incredibly white and will follow the trend of white liberalism.” Later, she sneers, “how nice it must be to have the privilege of not worrying about where the College’s student funding and endorsements are going.” With this remark, she takes the real issue of ingrained white privilege in institutions and attempts to apply it to a student government election in which the major policy issue is funding organizations. 

Are we supposed to believe that Sloane/Lazo intends to reduce funding to our multicultural organizations? Where was this stated in their campaign? According to Wang, with the election of Sloane/Lazo, “the voices of disabled students, low-income students, and students of color will never be loud enough to outshine white liberal comfortability.” Rather than expressing genuine concern, these claims are an attempt to invent differences between the two campaigns that intend to make people feel guilty for supporting the winning candidates. 

Beyond claims about individual voters, labeling organizations like Someone You Know and Vox as “overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly recreational, overwhelmingly not pushing back against the College administration and overwhelmingly focused on the issues that white liberals are comfortable talking about” does nothing but seed division and outrage. While some organizations that endorsed Sloane/Lazo are indeed recreational, SYK and Vox are not. Wang trivializes their issues of focus by labeling them as ones “white liberals are comfortable tackling.” No—these issues are prolific in our society and intensely uncomfortable for EVERYONE to address. 

Grappling with sexual abuse is necessary, not comfortable. Fighting for reproductive rights is necessary, not comfortable. Fighting against the virulence of bigotry is necessary, not comfortable. The identity of the students in advocacy groups should not take precedence over their organization’s mission. 

The article spirals further when Wang presumptuously claims a parallel between the results of our student election and the significance of political events in our national history. Equating the loss of the Chang/Aqeel ticket after the passing of the referendum to the backlash of rural white America in Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, to America’s support of Martin Luther King Jr. over Malcolm X, or most egregiously, to the rise of Jim Crow laws is grossly inappropriate.

Suggesting that this election was a concentrated effort by lukewarm white liberals to throw a bone to the MCOs but ensure the downfall of the Chang/Aqeel ticket is almost too ridiculous to address. Unbelievably, Wang writes that “it follows a historical trend of white liberalism: one step forward, only to destroy the systems that allowed this step to be taken. … It follows the trend of allowing space for the oppressed and marginalized, as long as it doesn’t reach a high enough level of power where it threatens whiteness.” This openly accuses the student body of pseudo-racist beliefs just because of their vote in a student assembly election. This is an over-the-top reaction to this election—nothing more needs to be said. 

Additionally, many students had concerns over a potential conflict of interest on the Chang/Aqeel ticket stemming from the supposed nature of their relationship. In this instance, personal considerations played a more critical role than MCO endorsements. This is an example of a valid reason to cast a vote against the ticket which transcended identity and boiled down to a matter of personal preference. 

On the College of William and Mary’s Yik Yak page, an anonymous forum, one student corroborates this, confirming “that’s why I didn’t vote for them,” in a post that received hundreds of upvotes. This again indicates that members of MCOs had no reason to vote unilaterally as Wang suggests, and they likely did not.

The ballot referendum passed because it was a popular initiative that students supported. Racist backlash to this was not why the Chang/Aqeel ticket lost. Nor was it because of  “white liberal comfortability.” Our community made an educated decision with the information available to us. This election was a declaration of freedom of choice, not a display of dogmatic conformity. 

Wang concludes by saying, “I made the claim that this election was a mark of white liberal comfortability. I ask that you prove me wrong.” Consider it done. 

CORRECTION (04/17/24): Article was updated in conjunction with the writers to refine details about conflicts of interest.


  1. Though I think you’ve given a valid rebuttal to some of Wang’s more inflammatory remarks, I believe you’ve still failed to grapple with her main discussion adequately. Specifically, her view that the White Liberal bias of this campus allows for students who are often White and Liberal to have the privilege not to consider issues that may not apply to them, Thus allowing them to ignore more significant systemic issues that can affect minority groups. Nowhere whatsoever does Wang say students are unable to read Student Assembly meetings or grapple with their own biases. In fact, The article acts as a call for action for students to do these things. Students don’t do these things because they are inconvenient. Introspection is hard, and reading Student Assembly notes is boring. Wang correctly points out that the fact a person can afford to ignore issues for their own convenience is a reflection of that privilege. The response to Wang’s article by our campus community was immature and outright insulting. The massive degree of misrepresentation that took place on Yik Yak and in the joint discussions was horrendous. Why did we react that way if we are such an educated student body? Why did this newspaper need to release a statement clarifying what an OP-ED is? I apologize, but I find it hard to believe we have such an educated and open-minded student body if this is how we responded. Anytime I talked about Wang’s article with someone who disliked Wang’s article, and I asked why specifically they disagreed, I rarely ever got an answer beyond “she called frats racist” or “it was just written bad.” Such students did not actively interact with her work. We don’t have an active student body. We have people who vote once a semester and then forget about our student assembly until the next. Even if Wang is wrong about everything, we as a student body must reflect on why we reacted to her article the way we did.

  2. I agree with much of the take that is here, but I also agree with the point that Alex makes in the replies. What disappointed me most about Wang’s article was that there is a vital argument and discussion to be had, and through her use of fallacies, she lost the point. This article avoids the main point that Wang tries to make and deconstructs other elements of the article instead. It misses the true context of Wang’s piece and still doesn’t confront the inconvenient truth that much of our student body still fails to admit is a reality. Let’s be honest, why did all the MCOs vote for one campaign over another? Why can’t this fact be confronted in the rebuttal? I think we should take a moment to entertain at least a counter-argument for this. It’s easy to dismiss the fact that it’s about a student assembly election and therefore doesn’t hold the same gravity, but it’s fair to care about who represents us as a student body. It’s valid to hold this to a standard as they do make decisions that affect our life here on campus, and if you disagree, I encourage you to look at the minutes of student assembly meetings to see what is really going on. Some students on campus don’t have the same privilege to disregard the results of an election because they are not represented as much as the majority white population, thus do not solely choose on the basis of whether the candidates are dating or not. In both the original and the rebuttal, there is a lacking contextual and intellectual discussion being had. I urge the readers to look deeper beyond Yik Yak and analyze our own biases to confront how we view ourselves. Alex hits the nail on the head and I just wanted to reaffirm that.


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