Ah yes, campaign season — we can smell it in the air. While the matching portraits and the free swag handouts are dazzling, not everything about A.S. elections is sweet. A.S. Council has undergone questionable political actions in recent years, so it is important to address the top things that have tarnished the last few elections.
A.S. candidates need to adhere to fair and proper election practices, which means keeping it civil: not ripping campaign posters down in PC, and, oh yeah, not emailing the entire campus to inform them how to vote. This is a reference to an email sent to the entire campus by former A.S. President Utsav Gupta last year encouraging students to vote yes on 2012’s Division I referendum. Though the judicial board declared that the action did not violate election guidelines, it is essential that slates do not take this intrusive approach of contacting students. It can be confusing to some students because much of the “spam” our student emails receive are university endorsed emails, which may lead students to think the university suggests we vote a certain way. By all means, leave the election spamming to Facebook.
It is also important for voters to be critical of what the slates are promising to students in their campaigns. Last year’s TIDE slate swept the election, taking three of the four top seats and four of eight campus-wide senatorial positions. Their entire platform was based on a promise to improve transportation, but this objective was actually out of A.S. Council’s control. Council is only able to amend internal bylaws, hire staff internally, pass budget allocations, put forward non-binding statements, sign contracts and approve referendums. Transportation services is an entirely separate entity, therefore discrediting the platform that many students rallied behind. Students need to pay close attention to campaign promises in order to know which ones are realistic.
A consistent issue with the elections has little to do with the candidates at all: voter turnout. You’d think with such simple voting on Triton Link that our elections might meet the sad but acceptable 50 percent turnout rate that our country claims, but last year’s election only motivated 21.6 percent of the student population to vote. Our turnout seems to be hovering in the 20s: Alyssa Wing’s victory in 2011–2012 saw a turnout of 27 percent, Wafa Ben Hassine’s 22.7 percent (2010–2011) and Utsav Gupta’s around 23 percent (2009–2010).
It is hard to see past all of the vague promises and charged words like “progress” and “unity,” but it is so important that students take the time to educate themselves on who is running. For further insight, make sure to read the Guardian’s A.S. elections endorsement issue — we set aside at least a half-hour per candidate to interview them and understand their vision and credentials, and then endorse those we feel will do the best job for our campus.
The Guardian released an editorial at the beginning of the year called, “What We’re Wishing for in 2012,” and while the new A.S. Council elect can’t necessarily control the jizzing in guacamole or the prevalence of mullet clothing, there are some legitimate requests that Council could address. We ask that A.S. Council be more accountable for the way it spends our money, from the slash of student org funding from $500 to $100, to the new fee referendum that allocates $60,000 of undergraduate annual funds to graduate student events. Also, no more Lip Dub (and let’s exclude the Harlem Shake while we’re at it).
What do you want from A.S. Council? Give it some thought, and make sure you vote this spring, or forever hold your peace.