Letter to the editor

Drawing focus back to JEC’s original goals

The Student Association constitution lays out 10 specific charges for the Joint Elections Committee. The very first one listed is, “Publicize all elections, referendums, and recall votes.”

But in recent years, the JEC has been woefully negligent in fulfilling this duty and has made only a minimal effort to inform voters about the election and the candidates running in it.

This is a wasted opportunity to strengthen the power of student advocacy. Our student leaders could be more effective if more of the student body was engaged and aware of who they are and what they are trying to do. Rather than looking at the elections as a once-a-year hassle, we should use it as an opportunity to increase student awareness of campus issues and organize the student body into a more powerful advocacy force that can support student leaders.

Lyndsey Wajert’s criticism of the JEC’s plans for this year in “Maintain a strong and effective Joint Elections Committee” (Jan. 19, p. 4) centered on the idea that the JEC’s primary duty should be enforcement of election rules, and that publicity should be left to others. But this simply isn’t true when you look at the JEC’s constitutional obligation.

On the other hand, I agree with the sentiment expressed in the staff editorial “A critical oversight for the Joint Elections Committee” (Jan. 19, p. 4) that, “an appropriate balance must be maintained between actively upholding the committee charter while not becoming overbearing at the same time.” Restoring this balance is exactly what I hope to do.

The JEC was not created to spend hours policing and monitoring candidates for minor violations, and the SA constitution does not call for the JEC to serve that role.

The Student Association constitution simply asks the JEC to hear and act upon complaints submitted to it.

In recent years, the committee members have wildly expanded what was previously a limited role because these members – for reasons that I will never understand – seemed to enjoy spending time enforcing these rules to the extreme.

In short, my mission with the JEC this year is this: Restore the balance between enforcement and oversight that was originally intended when the JEC was created, and use the JEC as a tool to make students at the University more engaged and empowered. I hope those who have thus far been critical of this shift in focus for the JEC will reconsider.

Phil Gardner is the chair of the Joint Elections Committee, and served on the committee during the 2009-2010 academic year.

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