David Ceasar: Second thoughts on SA endorsements

“Your endorsements remind me of the old joke, ‘People say I’m ignorant and apathetic. I don’t know what they’re talking about and I don’t care.'”

Such a message greeted me Monday morning after our editorial page published its lack of confidence in any of the presidential candidates. The letter to the editor expressed a sentiment I feared the day prior, when our editorial board decided on a precedent-setting non-endorsement endorsement. (To clarify, the newspaper did not endorse anyone for executive vice president last year in the runoff, but did so in the general election and typically does so every year).

Is our public indecision going to add to student apathy toward the Student Association? Are we making the right choice?

The letter to the editor, signed Vir Gules, continues: “Endorse someone for SA (p)resident! Someone has to serve and the candidates deserve to know your choice, not your blatherings over sanctimony and the virtue of no-choice. Jeez!”

Well, Mr. Gules, I think you’re on to something. During our private deliberations Sunday after meeting all the candidates, my initial vote was to jointly endorse Vishal Aswani and OG Oyiborhoro because they were my top two choices. The former seemed to be a better diplomat/advocate before administrators, and the latter a candidate who tried to do something with his time in the SA senate. I had a little headline in mind: “Pick Vishal, Click OG.” A little rhyme to it, even.

But the board’s mutual disappointment in this year’s field of presidential candidates was much stronger than my predisposition to actually endorsing someone. I conceded my minority voice to the consensus of the group and, admittedly, contributed to the editing process of the endorsement. What I wanted to ensure did not get lost in our message is that every student should still seize the opportunity of the online voting system and vote.

Reaction has been nearly unanimous; almost no one was happy with our indecision. The volume of feedback has been meager, though, which perhaps illustrates the apathy toward the election. Or perhaps it is a sign that what the mighty Hatchet says is not all that important.

Do we take ourselves too seriously? A reader posting on our blog under the name “Makes Sense” made that patently obvious. (S)he opined: “If anything, what the paper wrote about the presidential candidates this year shows how pretentious and snobbish the paper is and how all those who work for The Hatchet think they are better than the student body . Starting to sound a lot like what people claim the SA is perceived as.”

Ouch. Another asked, “Well The Hatchet is disconnected from the student body as is, so who cares what they say?”

In logic classes, this would be called an ad hominem argument, as it attacks the source of a message instead of the message itself. They skirt the issue. However, I would agree that there is substance to the criticism of our editorial, or lack thereof. Former opinions editor Kyle Spector also thinks it was a bad move, saying that professional newspapers don’t skirt endorsing candidates within their endorsements.

But, then again, we’re not a “real paper,” despite Spector’s comparison. Those criticizing us on our blog said we take ourselves too seriously and that we’re detached from the student body. The Hatchet’s aggressive nature to thoroughly cover campus news often leaves the less media-savvy student or alumnus in the dust. No, we do not forget what we were told in interviews because you want to retroactively go off the record; no, we don’t delete articles from our Web site because you later realized that interstate narcotics trafficking might hurt future job prospects.

We’re tough on those we cover because we believe that it leads to a better-informed GW. But in the case of our endorsements, I think we probably let our readership down in this objective.

Even two of the more media-savvy students – SA President Nicole Capp and EVP Brand Kroeger – were not sure what to make of the endorsement. Both independently sent me one-line e-mails saying little more than the word “interesting.” Senior Vice President Robert Chernak oddly enough used similar verbiage: “A non-endorsement endorsement is certainly a unique position. I’m never surprised by what the Hatchet may do. It keeps life at GW interesting.”

Regardless of how interesting – or boring and apathetic – we make campus politics, you ought to find your own reality of student governance this election season. So, go vote.

The writer, a graduate student pursuing a master’s in political management, is The Hatchet’s senior editor.

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