William Green: Debating the use of satire in student elections

Student Association elections are a time of overbearing self-promotion and often-meaningless promises. Last week, candidates shoved fliers into our hands in Kogan Plaza and covered the walls of the Marvin Center staircase in posters.

It’s easy to poke fun at these politicians-in-training as they spend hundreds of dollars and countless hours struggling to gain positions that many students don’t even know exist.

So, on some level, I appreciate what senior Hugo Scheckter tried to do with his satirical campaign, highlighting the absurdity of the whole election process as “King Hugo.” But it was a distraction from the platforms of other candidates, who tried to offer legitimate solutions to campus problems.

Tuesday night’s debate was a chance for Scheckter to use his humor to talk about changes he would actually like to see on campus. But instead of informing the audience, he was merely a distraction for students who wanted to learn about the other candidates’ platforms.

There’s a time and a place for everything. And the debate, which is the culminating and arguably most important event of the campaign season should not be wasted on mockery.

Scheckter failed to offer any real examples of ways to fix campus issues, instead resorting to obscenity-laden complaints about topics like the construction of the GW Museum, which will partially house textiles, at the center of campus. He offered no remedy to the situation and barely suggested how to better use the space.

If Scheckter really wanted to make a statement about the casual disregard the administration practices in its dealings with the student body, then he should have dedicated his campaign entirely to it in a more serious fashion.

Satire is only effective when it’s working toward making a specific point. It’s a lot easier to tell someone they are wrong rather than explaining why. If you’re going to step out on stage with people who claim to have solutions for our problems, you can’t only tell me their solutions are flawed. Running a satirical campaign is fine, but for it to be meaningful, it has to have some substantive ideas as a foundation.

The most frustrating part of this situation is that someone with as much visible wit, passion and charisma as Scheckter didn’t direct those energies where they would have made the most impact. It’s evident from the influence he had on this race and the 775 votes he received last week during the election that a real effort on his part would have been a force to reckon with.

In between jokes, he did make a serious point. In one of his final statements of the debate, Scheckter encouraged every student to “question the decisions that are being made [by the administration].” This should have been the centerpiece of his election effort – not the sole genuine moment in an otherwise comedic campaign.

Personally, I would’ve been eager to hear his solutions to the many problems we face on this campus.

At the end of the day, absurdities aside, the issues being debated affect the daily lives of every student on this campus. And while comedy has its place, student life here will be much better off if we all actually engage with the system rather than having a non-participatory laugh at its expense.

William Green is a junior majoring in American Studies.

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