Student Association candidates, focus on attainable goals

Student Association elections are in a little more than a month, which means candidates will soon announce their platforms. When they do, students should be on the lookout for platform points that are too lofty or too run-of-the-mill.

SA candidates should create platforms with tangible goals and well-researched strategies to achieve those goals. Platforms generally include points about affordability, and this year, we expect platforms to also mention divestment. But candidates should have new ways to tackle these goals – especially since SA candidates have mentioned some of these platform points year after year.

Students should be aware of platform points that are infeasible and be ready to do research on the points each SA candidate proposes. During last year’s campaign, now-SA President Erika Feinman’s platform included some goals that other SA presidents had previously tried to accomplish but failed. Notably, Feinman campaigned on adding a student representative to the Board of Trustees. Although the University did create a task force to explore the possibility of adding a student representative and Board of Trustees members will present the outcome at their next meeting, we still don’t know how serious the University is about adding a student trustee.

But some SA presidents have had success in proposing big changes, and it’s a good idea to set high goals. Former SA President Julia Susuni was effective in lobbying officials to move the Colonial Health Center onto campus. While this goal included a hefty price tag, it was in line with what many of our peer schools already offer – mental health services and student health services on campus. Students passionately supported Susuni’s goal, which helped make it a reality. It’s important to have large-scale goals, as long as they have a tangible, positive impact on students’ daily lives.

Smaller goals that can be easily instituted should make up a substantial part of candidates’ platforms. Former SA President Andie Dowd campaigned on adding emergency information to the back of GWorld cards. Even though adding this information didn’t substantially change the student experience, it was a simple change that benefitted students and easily got administrators’ support.

SA president and executive vice president candidates should have well-researched platforms and strategies to implement their goals – big or small. If candidates want to make changes to an academic policy, they should have a way to get that goal through the Faculty Senate. If platforms include financial changes for the University, the candidates should know how they’ll get that goal past the Board of Trustees. Under-researched platform points could make students think that the impossible is possible. Lofty platforms make for good campaign rhetoric, but students should know how each goal can and would be achieved.

SA platforms are likely to address some similar themes this year or take some ideas from last year’s platforms – specifically divestment and again trying to add a student representative to the Board of Trustees. While this editorial board did not reach a consensus on whether or not we agree with these points, they are worthy conversations for student leaders to have and SA candidates to take stances on. If a candidate chooses to include issues on their platform, such as divestment or adding a student to the Board of Trustees, they need to include solid strategies to achieve the goals that are different from past candidates’ platform points.

We also expect candidates to mention the national political climate. While it makes sense that a candidate would want to stick up for students who are unhappy with who was elected U.S. president and may even feel threatened by President Donald Trump’s administration, the SA should remember that they and the administration can only impact campus climate – not national politics.

SA platforms should continue the work that the current SA administration has prioritized. Affordability has always been a relevant issue, and the current SA administration has pushed students to fill out an affordability survey for several weeks. SA candidates should present detailed plans for how to effectively help students based on the survey’s results, whether it is through continuing to lobby for cheaper printing or cutting laundry costs.

Academics have frequently been left off of candidates’ platforms, which is a mistake. While students do many things on campus, our primary reason for being here is to learn. Candidates should look for ways to give students more freedom to take classes they want to take, and present other ways to promote a positive learning environment.

For the first time in a decade, the SA president and EVP will get to work with a new University president. These candidates get to set the tone for how students interact with incoming University President Thomas LeBlanc. LeBlanc signaled that he intends to interact with students on campus, so SA candidates should push for LeBlanc to actually do that by holding weekly office hours or frequent appearances at sports games and student plays. If SA candidates set the tone for the relationship between the University president and the student body in their platforms, we think it’s likely LeBlanc will listen.

SA platforms need to strike a careful balance between the impossible and the mundane. But hopefully each candidate puts the time and effort into researching and setting clear strategies for reaching their goals before they announce their candidacies.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Melissa Holzberg and contributing opinions editor Irene Ly, based on discussions with managing director Eva Palmer, homepage editor Tyler Loveless, contributing sports editor Matt Cullen and copy editor Melissa Schapiro.

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