I stood outside the Marvin Center Friday night, watching the spectacle that is the kickoff to the Student Association elections. More than a hundred students hurriedly plastered the walls with posters while passers-by looked on in confusion. The event epitomized student politics at GW; the politicos (candidates and their friends) were so consumed with the election process that they ignored the issues and the people they want to represent.
Few of the students I’ve talked to even know that student elections are taking place this week.
And almost no one is aware of the issues. This is most likely a symptom of the candidates themselves not being aware of or not having any issues at all. Their campaign posters, devoid of serious content and full of empty-sounding slogans, do little to remedy the ignorance. One sign I spotted said, “Say no to politics,” which is ironic considering the candidate is neglecting the issues and politicking with an anti-political slogan. Other candidates used clever acronyms like T.O.G.A. (Trust Our Government Again), which conjures up images of a drunken frat boy, hardly the paragon of trustworthiness (our country’s president is an example of the type). The most ludicrous sign was one that posed the question, “Hypocrisy or Democracy?” and featured the flags of the United States and the former Soviet Union. I guess this candidate was trying to draw a parallel between the SA and a repressive, totalitarian government.
Candidates have shirked from serious debate and discussion, instead opting to wax eloquently about condoms and Tony Danza. A debate, however, would have gone a long way to inform students of the issues and the candidates’ views on the issues; but alas, the debate scheduled for last Monday was canceled (did anyone even know there was going to be a debate?).
Voters will go to the polls with little or no knowledge of the issues, and the result could be detrimental to the student body because, contrary to popular belief, the SA is more than underage drinking and a “good thing to put on your resume.”
The SA allocates more than $200,000 each year to scores of student groups and has a budget of more than $400,000 in total. Those who preside over the SA control the funds. Whether you’re a College Republican, a writer for Wooden Teeth or a member of a theater group, your club’s budget is partly dependent on how much money the SA gives you.
The SA also represents the student body in meetings with the administration and discusses things that greatly impact students, such as tuition increases and funding for academic programs.
Yet, students don’t know this about the SA. This stems partly from their ambivalence to the SA, their ambivalence to campus issues and partly from the fact that candidates have kept students in the dark. If candidates expressed their platforms and held debates, there might be more enthusiasm for the SA.
Students at the polls this week are unaware of what each candidate stands for, if a candidate stands for anything at all. Rather, a student will be voting for a name, an anonymous politician in a crowd of anonymous politicians, a flashy poster on a wall filled with flashy posters. Students can only hope that the senators they elect are qualified and the two presidential candidates that make it to the inevitable runoff are worthy of the position.
And hopefully, in the near future, we will hold meaningful elections in which candidates give us a reason to vote for them.
-The writer, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.