Let’s cut the campaign speak.
Does being an Student Association outsider really help you bring a fresh perspective to the organization, as many candidates this year say? How much does being in the SA prepare you for its top leadership spots?
Several senators and Alex Cho, a presidential candidate, are touting their outsider perspectives. In the past four years, two SA presidents were elected with no previous SA experience. We spoke with a few SA experts to try to figure it out.
Tim Miller, director of the Center for Student Engagement and official SA adviser
On having an upper hand: “It’s less about insider and outsider, and more about who they want to be as a leader. Any SA president and EVP will tell you: Everyone’s an outsider until you get the job. No one knows what it’s like until you have to do it. So people can say, ‘Alex is this’ or ‘Ben is this’ or ‘Andie is this,’ but none of them know what being a president is like until they have to do it. It’s the same with EVP. Same with all the senators. So for me, insider or outsider is irrelevant because they all have a lot of work to do once they get the job.”
On institutional knowledge: “You never know what you need to know as president until you get in the job. I’ve seen insiders, I’ve seen outsiders, I’ve seen all the different types. It has less to do with that and more to do with who you are as a human being, who you are as a person, who you are as a leader.”
Ashwin Narla, former SA President, 2012-2013, who was elected with no SA experience
On an outsider’s perspective: “It’s just really a perspective thing. Things that come from outside the SA are great, things from inside are also great. It’s just a matter of different perspective. If you get outsiders who are involved with different things can understand some of the needs of the campus people in the SA don’t see.”
John Richardson, former SA President, 2011-2012, who was elected with no SA experience
On what an outsider can bring to the table: “In terms of running, as long as you get somebody that has a good feel for what the campus needs, you should be fine. You need confidence, of course, to actually convince administrators on what’s best for the students more or less. Being in tune is more important than past experiences. Having the ability to do that is helpful. If you look at the cabinet voted and ratified by the senate, we sailed right through that pretty much all unanimous. I think nobody had any grudge to hold against me because they hadn’t worked with me and we could start on a new page.”