It is a sad day when we elect people to represent us that we do not know. However, I do not blame the electorate. I blame the candidates. It is easy to blame the candidates because they are the ones who sit on the Student Association Senate. They are the ones who do not want to meet people and who would rather win through excessive distribution of paper.
The candidate-senators are so easy to blame because they are so busy planning their re-elections. As a result, they have forgotten the most important duty of a SA senator: to represent the opinions of the people who elected them. I can tell you why the student petition to ban palmcarding was voted down. It was not voted down because senators want to protect free speech. It was voted down to make their lives easier and to make yours more annoying. If they had tried talking to their constituents as I did, they would have realized that an overwhelming majority of people are more than annoyed by the yearly practice of palmcarding. In fact, they despise it.
Another reason why the Senate will not vote to ban palmcarding springs from the conventional wisdom that the person with the most palmcarders wins. Naturally, people who campaign all day and miss class in search of a glorious SA position are the friends of senators. Why would a senator vote for something that makes it easier for an outsider to challenge him or her?
The next question I pose is this: why do these candidates rely so heavily on palmcarding in the first place? One assumes that a presidential or senatorial candidate will work his or her hardest to ensure that he or she speaks to as many people as possible before election day. If someone runs for office and does not take the initiative to meet people and to solicit their opinions, why should his or her constituents believe their views will be considered once that person no longer needs their votes?
Why do I so adamantly oppose a practice in which I myself participated last year? I simply believe campaigns should not be about who can assemble the biggest political machine to hand out the most pieces of paper to annoy the most people. They should be about the candidate who devotes his or her time and energy to go to as many group meetings and residence hall rooms as possible.
The key to success in elections and student government is the same: to meet and to listen to as many students as possible. In other words, to take the time to represent and to understand all of one’s constituents. Palmcarding gets your name out, but it does not allow you to know what your fellow students are thinking. By meeting the candidate, the voters can judge for themselves whether someone can competently represent them in front of the University administration. These qualities cannot be transmitted on a palm card.
I have never wanted to prohibit voters from obtaining information on the issues and the platforms. Various ideas were discussed that would have allowed voters to access information exceeding the catchphrase on a palm card. These ideas included flyers at the polling places with information provided by the candidates so those who wanted literature could make their own decision free from harassment. I strongly disagree with senators’ assertions that the harassing ordeal of palmcarding is the only way educate voters. A palmcarded voter is not necessarily an informed voter.
Many politicians run on issues that sound good and have no intent on following through with them. Last year, I vowed I would “fight like hell” to end palmcarding on this campus. I have fought, and I have met much resistance, not from you but from the senators who represent you. However, the fight is far from over. That is why I will re-circulate the petitions so the Senate will again be afforded the opportunity to make the right decision. I encourage all of you, candidates and students, those who pester and those who are pestered to make sure you sign the petition and send a message. Additionally, in the event that the unrepresentative policies of this Senate remain unchanged, I call directly upon the candidates to participate in a voluntary ban of all palmcarding during this election cycle.
If you ask students whether they enjoy being harassed on their way to class by swarms of politicians clamoring for votes, they will respond with a resounding “NO!.” Alas paper everywhere, palm cards stuffed down shirts, money wasted, people frustrated, and candidates exhausted – all to what end? To try to win an election. If you are faced with a palm card this year, remember for whom you voted last year, and make sure you do not make the same mistake.
-The writer, a senior, is SA president.