The Student Association pursued a worthwhile objective in adopting a new charter for the Joint Elections Commission.
Some provisions including supervised vote counting, sealed elections returns, and a clear-cut policy available to candidates from the outset of campaigning move in the right direction. The SA achieved this feat, however, through clearly corrupt and inappropriate means. Sadly, senators and officials in our student government apparently lack the understanding that the mere appearance of impropriety is cause for alarm. Such appearances pervade these students’ recent actions.
A Joint Elections Commission implies that all of the chartered organizations appearing on campuswide ballots have a hand in the rules governing the contest. The SA acted unilaterally without adequately considering the consequences of those actions on students, the Program Board and the Marvin Center Governing Board. Campaign season already serves as a monumental distraction from the business of going to college.
Posters, signs and palm-cards litter the campus. Students transform from affable, easy-going people into monsters of partisan politics plotting and scheming against one-time friends. All of this behavior supposedly occurs in good fun, but it becomes tiresome nonetheless. The SA’s actions force the PB and the MCGB to examine the possibility of holding more than one election, a mistake of monumental proportions. Voter apathy, perhaps even annoyance and outrage, could foul the already turgid waters of campus politics here at GW.
Another innate flaw in the SA’s JEC restructuring plan instantly appears in The Hatchet article even upon the most cursory examination. Clearly a conflict of interest exists when elected officials create the very rules they must follow. Even the most well-meaning and sincere politician – student or otherwise – faces a difficult task in trying to put forward an explanation to the contrary. Political people, as illustrated by history, face great temptation when drafting rules to slant the playing field, leave gaping loopholes, and engage in other less than honest tactics to ensure their own re-election. Whether the SA senators engaged in a good-faith effort to draft a charter for the JEC with integrity and honesty is immaterial; their past conduct – including an absurd impeachment episode, the illogical and haphazard methods used to fund student organizations, and a myriad of other issues – tends to indicate that this fox cannot be trusted to guard such an important hen-house.
The entire Senate, particularly the committee drafting the new charter, may suffer from conflict of interest problems, but one senator’s conduct in particular ought to disturb students. Jeff Baxter, chairman of the troubled committee that undertook to change the JEC charter, now serves both as a senator and as a member of the commission with jurisdiction over his fellow senators’ election. In fact, Baxter sits in a position to profoundly influence the conduct of the campaign.
His committee already wrote rules and provisions for campaigning into the JEC charter that the supposedly independent organization should set after its formulation to avoid politics from entering into this critical arena. Now, Baxter has the opportunity though his position on the commission to make more rules and enforce the same. This example of double-dipping reeks of favoritism on the part of the current SA president, Caity Leu. If Baxter wishes to serve on the JEC, he should resign his senate seat.
The time has arrived for student government to stand up and serve as an example of students acting with integrity and intelligence. So many reprehensible things that people consider wrong with today’s political system and the people involved therein bask in the murky world of GW’s own student government. Conflicts of interest and partisan politics only serve to undermine the electorate’s confidence in their leaders.
Why must everything this administration touches smack with impropriety? Certainly the notion that disillusionment among students with their governing body disturbs current and potential elected officials. Why aggravate that condition through subterfuge and obviously shady dealings?
One can only wonder.
-The writer is a sophomore majoring in history.