Annu Subramanian: What it takes to make it as an outsider

It’s election time on campus and for the fraction of the student body that cares, these next few weeks will be a whirlwind of posters, palm cards and platforms.

But this year, the platform seems to be just as much about the brand as it is about the issues, and many of the Student Association presidential and executive vice presidential candidates are trying to craft their image as that of “the outsider.”

While most of their platforms reflect an understanding of the issues that plague student life, they are also using the fact that they weren’t a part of this year’s senate as an important campaign advantage.

The Joint Elections Committee released an unverified list of candidates for the Student Association, and among the eight candidates for president and executive vice president, only SA Senate Finance Chair and presidential hopeful John Bennett currently serves in the SA.

So for the other seven candidates, being an outsider isn’t exactly the distinguishing characteristic they hoped it’d be.

But that said, the outsider title comes with a great deal to brag of: more connection with student life, fewer administrative motives and distance from the slugishness of the previous year’s SA. But it also means playing a game of catch-up that might be difficult to overcome.

Outsiders, welcome to the arena. Your participation makes the campaign more dynamic and will expand the breadth of issues discussed over the next few weeks.

You are also untouched by much of the cynicism that plagues students who have been in the SA for too long; your idealism will fuel you through disheartening meetings with administrators or frustrating interactions with an unresponsive senate.

But you still are an outsider.

And while that “maverick” image is one to project with pride, you must have a comprehensive, outlined plan to back up your platform.

I have read many of the candidate goals and promises twice: first as a hopeful student and second as a cautious skeptic. Effecting change on a campus is difficult, and setting tangible, reachable goals is vital to having a successful term.

Being a lobbyist is no easy task, and your work with administrators is the central way that you will bring the change you promise.

But if you’re too much of an outsider, you won’t have a set of people in the University’s top-brass who are willing to come to your aid. Show us how you’ll wade through administrative bureaucracy and who you will seek out as allies.

If you’re too much of an outsider, you might have a good sense of what students care about, but no idea precisely how to meet your goals. And when the campaign posters peel off the walls and it’s your turn to assume leadership, you’ll be left with the promises you made to your peers and no road map for how to achieve them.

If you’re too much of an outsider, then day one of your term is day one of approaching the issues.

At that time, you had better know what to do, and you had better hit the ground running. Prove to your voters that you’re not an empty promise, and they’ll gravitate toward you.

Let this be the year the candidates – even those without Student Association experience – make strategic plans, not just sexy-sounding platforms. Otherwise, you’ll be a group of candidates fighting for ownership over a term that means as much bad as it does good.

Annu Subramanian, a junior majoring in journalism, is the Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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