A shaky start

Final Joint Elections Committee rules for next month’s elections are slated for release this week. For most students, the letters JEC mean little. The committee exists for only a few weeks each year, plans no parties, enlightens no students – yet in years past, it has managed constantly to make headlines.

Those who remember controversies surrounding last year’s JEC probably hoped this year’s committee would run smoothly and responsibly. While still early in its existence, the new JEC is off to a shaky start.

The JEC should be comprised of students who represent the entire spectrum of University interests rather than student politicos and denizens of the Marvin Center’s vaunted fourth floor.

Ideal JEC members are impartial students who have no strong affiliation with any group or individual, so as to avoid any conflicts of interest – both real and potential.

The committee’s vice chair spent most of last election season in Student Court fighting the JEC when it fined him for numerous violations of its rules. Another member is one of the highest-ranking staff members of Independence Magazine, on a “leave of absence” from his position there. Two members already spent time this year working on a candidate’s campaign.

Why not pick average students who spend most of their time outside the Marvin Center? That would seem to be the best way to get an equitable JEC. No question should exist that committee members are serving because they want to see the elections run fairly – not just to see their friends elected to office.

Time allotted for this year’s JEC rule-making was laughably lacking. The full committee had three days to set the rules for this election – not exactly time enough for careful contemplation. Though the rules change little from year to year, ample time should be allowed for members to debate, polish and ultimately perfect the rules for campus elections.

This year could be a landmark year for the JEC. It is operating under a new charter, and is looking ahead to a future as a permanent entity on campus. But unless it proves to students that it is more than another example of fourth-floor cronyism, it will lose its credibility among the students who still feel it is a worthwhile institution.

Members of the JEC and representatives of its sponsoring organizations should aim to make the committee fair, honest and impartial and to keep it where it should be – behind the scenes.

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