Give students an SA candidate worth voting for
If you haven’t already noticed, Student Association elections are just around the corner. Letters about the Joint Elections Committee’s newly proposed goals dominate The Hatchet’s opinions section, while the news section contains juicy SA gossip like the apparent clash between the president and the SA Senate.
Last week, the chair of the JEC, Phil Gardner, reported there is typically a 20-percent voter-participation rate at GW. Because of this staggeringly low statistic, I commend the JEC’s new goal to “get out the vote.” Encouraging voter participation is essential in a democratic system of governance.
That said, I think the other new goal – to put less emphasis on rule violations – is a mistake.
Elections will always be unfair without solid law enforcement. The rules need to be enforced, because students who choose campaign managers, attend endorsement interviews, dig dirt up on their competitors and violate campaign rules dominate the Student Association presidential field. In other words, the field is made up of students who take winning the election too seriously.
Until the campaign field presents ordinary alternatives to student-elitists in the election who are just running to play politics, the Joint Elections Committee must sternly enforce the rules. Indeed, the only reason the JEC exists at all is because these elections attract aspiring politicians.
If the JEC de-emphasizes rule enforcement, it will underpin the reason 80 percent of students don’t vote to begin with: They detest the candidate pool.
Here’s the good news: We can change that pattern, because almost anyone can run for SA president. All someone needs is a passion to better our school. I was a candidate last year, but I didn’t fit the fraternity-backed “career politician” mold. I was a student seeking the attention of other students who couldn’t care less about the people in student government who don’t care about students in the first place.
The Hatchet’s endorsement for SA president described me as having a “blatant lack of knowledge…regarding how the University operates.” That may have been correct, but how much does that even matter?
You see, I don’t even know what the phrase “how the University operates” means. Are there some top-secret methods GW administrators use to make major decisions? Do they not discuss, debate and decide like everyone else? Is that not how normal institutions work? Is that not how we all operate in our everyday lives?
Elections will be what we make them. Give us someone to vote for, and we in the 80 percent might just show up.
Josh Benjamin, a senior, was a presidential candidate during the 2011 SA elections.