One could be forgiven for thinking that change is the theme of the Student Association election this year. Virtually all of the campaigns have focused on it. But what the candidates, particularly those for the office of SA president, are talking about is not true change. The tired spectacle of over-ambitious, under-intelligent college politics is with us again.
Despite the name of a new group to the contrary, there is no change for students on the ballot this week but only candidates in narcissistic attempts to see if they can be the one to hold the position from which they think change comes.
Actual change requires a set of concrete proposals to do things differently. “I will represent the students!” and “I will fight for you!” do not represent change. They are empty slogans. Much like when a candidate shakes your hand and earnestly asks your name twice on the same day, these catch-phrase campaigns are hollow attempts to reach out to you without the possibility of alienating you that mentioning an issue might raise.
Good change requires input from the community and discussion during the policy-building process. Kudos to Change for Students and its presidential candidate, Daniel Loren, for adding some backbone to their rhetoric. But their proposed constitution overhaul does not represent good change, foremost because of its provenance. According to Loren, four students drafted the document from their own ideas and those presented by no more than 12 others in their clique. The process was not open and there was no way for other students to participate. For all the current posters trying to sell us a new government, there was not one asking us to help make it better.
And let there be no mistake: this constitution is a campaign document. Loren bristles at this accusation. But the fact remains he was one of the four who wrote the new constitution. I asked him after the candidate forum last Thursday if there is any student who was involved in the new constitution and is not now working for the Loren campaign. He paused. He turned his head away for a moment, then back quickly and said, “No.”
Perhaps because we go to GW, our candidates for SA president feel compelled toward the George Washington model of a presidency. Each one wants the SA – and indeed the president – to be the focal point of our GW experience. They want for us to have them to thank for ushering in an era of principled, effective student governance. Some want to achieve this for themselves by more revolutionary means than others do.
All would do well to look to other presidents for inspiration. SA needs a caretaker – less Franklin D Roosevelt, more Gerald R. Ford. It needs a hard worker whose ego is grounded – not Lyndon Baines Johnson, but John Quincy Adams. Students do not need John F. Kennedy coolness; we need a Calvin Coolidge silence. After all, the business of GW is academics. The business of the SA should be service, low-profile service.
-The writer is a junior majoring in political science.