The posters are up, the Facebook group invitations are out, but slates – a former mainstay of GW student government elections – are gone, and the dynamic has changed as fewer candidates campaign for the upcoming general election.
Slates had grown to great power over the past several years. Last year, more than 25 students ran for seats in the senate and all candidates – save SA Sen. Matt Cohen (SoB-U) – were elected to the body with the Student Union slate. In December, the senate effectively ended election slates and has only sanctioned two-person coalitions for this week’s election, which will include 17 senate candidates.
“Admittedly, there have been less senate candidates under this new system, but candidates of a higher quality,” said Sen. Nick D’Addario (U-At Large), a senior. “I see candidates motivated to work on behalf of the student body in the senate, not a slate of students chosen to appeal to different groups on campus in order to win an election.”
D’Addario, who had unsuccessful bids for the executive with the College Party and Student Union slates, said he felt responsible for the past power of the slates and their adverse effects on election campaigning.
“I believe that rather than having the initial selection of candidates be chosen by a few slate leaders, instead anyone wishing to run for office should and then the voters can decide,” he said. “The ending of the slate system at GW has and will continue to give the student body a greater voice in choosing their representatives.”
Cohen, a senior, said getting rid of slates opens the playing field for candidates.
“The abolition of slates has made it more fair for students to seek SA positions,” Cohen said. “Due to the power of slates to elect senate candidates in the past, students were deterred from running because they faced steep odds at winning. By removing slates, it levels the playing field for every GW student.”
SA Sen. Kevin Kozlowski (U-At Large), a junior running for SA president, said he supported the elimination of large slates, despite the fact he was elected to the senate on the Student Union slate.
“It certainly helped get me elected, but I think that as a system, I am happy that there are no more slates,” Kozlowski said. “Every student should have a fair opportunity to serve in the SA.”
Former senator Ben Traverse, who ran for president in 2005 with the Coalition for Reform, was the first candidate to create a slate that attempted to elect students to all positions in GW student government. He said the SA should not have made the decision to ban slates.
“Those of us in student government are all from the same constituency – students – we all strive toward the same goal of bettering our university,” Traverse said. “The slate encourages involvement and discourages apathy, and for that reason, I believe it was a bad idea for the Student Association to ban slates.”
Former Executive Vice President Morgan Corr, who ran for SA president with the Real GW slate in 2006, said it is impossible to effectively ban slates.
“There will always be coalitions, there will always be ‘alliances,’ there will always be some people who share beliefs and goals, and some who share different beliefs and goals,” Corr said. “It is natural for those people to support each other.”
Corr said allowing some slates and not others is “ludicrous and discriminatory.”
This year, there are at least two, two-person coalitions for the senate.
Sens. Shawn Dejbakhsh (FY-NV) and Nick Polk (FY-NV), who are running for two undergraduate-at large senate seats, decided to run together because they had many of the same ideas and could save money, Dejbakhsh said.
“Nick and I worked in the senate and we have a lot of similar initiatives,” Dejbakhsh said. “We want to feed off of each other’s fires.”
SA Sen. OG Oyiborhoro (CCAS-U), who is running for president and was elected to the senate under the Student Union slate, said consenting to larger slates would allow more students to rally around a common mission.
“I believe that slates should exist because it gives candidates a chance to run under a common cause,” said Oyiborhoro, a junior.
SA Sen. Ted O’Neil (ESIA-U), who is running for EVP and was elected to the senate under the Student Union slate, said there are advantages and disadvantages to slates and there is no clear-cut answer on whether they should have been banned.
He said, “Nothing in life is black and white, and I think the debates over slates are no different.”