February 27, 2007

Student Assembly Elections Kick Off

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With Student Assembly and University Assembly elections around the corner, it is time for candidates to go through the usual campaign process of handing out quarter cards, participating in forums and visiting campus dorms. But this year, the students must perform these activities alone and without joint tickets.

The elimination of joint campaigning is the most dramatic change of the 2007 elections. In the past, candidates from different constituencies would often campaign together on one ticket. While some candidates found this method helpful, others felt that it created petty exchanges and unjust coalitions.

Director of Elections Nitin Chadda ’07 is a proponent of the change. According to Chadda, the election cycle has seen more committed candidates compared to the past, in which many students were compelled by friends to run. Consequently, certain candidates were recruited to run, rather than choosing to run.

“We felt that this was anti-democratic,” Chadda said.

Current Vice President of Internal Operations, Elan Greenberg ’08, has a similar outlook as Chadda. Greenberg took part in creating and sponsoring the resolution which eliminated tickets from the S.A. elections process. Greenberg believes that whereas elections used to be dominated by “party bosses,” now students will be able to have a legitimate run for the S.A.

“The S.A. was dominated by singular arrogant personalities rather than cohesive ideas, goals, or visions,” Greenberg said. “The old ticket system encouraged fellowship amongst candidates while this election will encourage leadership.”

Similar to his desire to abandon joint tickets, if re-elected, Greenberg hopes that he can improve the quality of life for undergraduates, while eliminating the petty politics that have existed on the S.A. board in the past.

At the same time, current Arts and Science representative of the S.A. board, Vince Hartman ’08, believes that while joint ticketing created a more competitive process which was driven by popularity rather than issues, it also allowed candidates to feel that they had support throughout the process.

As a result, Hartman does not believe that the main issues of elections was the aspect of joint ticketing but rather the lack of students who are both aware of candidate stances and take the time to vote.

On the other hand, Daniel Budish ’09 who is also currently on the S.A. board as the Architecture, Art and Planning representative opposed the resolution. While he believes the changes in the elections will make the process more focused upon the individual, he also believes that it will be followed by other negative consequences.

“While I hope the resolution ensures less hostility during elections, I do feel that it makes the election process much more intimidating for people who are inexperienced with the system,” Budish said.

One challenge that the S.A. elections continuously faces is getting students to vote. Consequently, this year, the board has added a referendum to the ballot in order to encourage students to vote. The referendum includes questions ranging from Legal Media service to the Student Activity fee.

Current S.A. President, Kwame Thomison ’07 hopes that this referendum will urge students to vote, as the responses to the questions will directly affect the undergraduate body. Each candidate has a similar stance on this to Thomison.

“The most important part of campaigning is getting people to vote. Every year there seems to be a problem with turnout for these elections because people simply forget or do not care,” Wang said.