Elections: Cooked to Perfection with an Ooey-Gooey Center
The following article is written in response to an opinion piece published in the most recent print copy of the Marist Circle entitled “Half-Baked Election Season”
As the Director of the Elections Commission in Student Government, it is troubling to learn opinions of students who believe that SGA conducts its business hastily and without reverence for the student body. In the wake of these most recent Student Body president elections, I want to ensure that the highest level of transparency is being upheld, and that if there is any mystery concerning the democratic process, students feel empowered to question their government. Essentially, I would like to address the question: “Why the hell does this year’s election season seem so rushed?”
To some, the idea of the American democratic system may inspire metaphors of slowly blossoming fruit trees requiring years of careful tending, or the painstaking, antiquated labor of our tri-tip-hat-wearing founding fathers. My personal perception of democracy is inspired by one word that I believe also succinctly describes the essence of the Dolce/Billips administration: revolution. At the time of its ratification, the American Constitution was considered to be full of radical notions. Do you think that our country’s system of government waltzed gracefully into being, met with neither opposition nor confusion? If the Marist College Elections Commission is meant to reflect the example set by institutional democracy in America, I would argue that it should do everything in its power to leap boldly into uncharted territory in the name of progress.
The official campaign period for elections spanned from March 25 to April 3. As students returned from spring break, they were invited to Speech Night on Tuesday, (BAM!), Meet the Candidates on Wednesday (BOOM!), and Debate Night on Thursday (WA-POW!). The consolidated nature of the election process was deliberate, with careful consideration for the needs of a slew of different participating parties. Based on feedback from both students and former Student Body President candidates, the Elections Commission found that extending the campaigning period beyond a week only leads to burnout. Communicating a platform to the entire student body takes a tremendous amount of effort, and candidates cannot be expected to sustain this overwhelming time commitment for several weeks–because despite their distinguished professionalism, candidates are just as much students as you and I.
During my short tenure in Student Government, I have found the student body to be fickle. Its is as a member of this group and with no negative intention that I say that students at this college have a short attention span. We are all experiencing in an inherently selfish time in our lives where after juggling all of our personal passion projects, there is little energy left to be allocated elsewhere. I cannot expect students to engage in a weeks long election process because although democracy is of invaluable importance, the return on investment in college is implicated in prioritizing academics.
By limiting the duration and increasing the intensity of elections, the Elections Commission saw a surge in voter participation and general engagement in comparison to years past with a total of 2104 votes. Candidates are always given ample opportunity to express plans for their administration across several platforms.
During election season, biographies for each candidate can be found on the SGA website and updates about the candidates are posted on the Marist SGA Instagram throughout campaigning. Speech Night, Meet the Candidates, and Debate Night are open to all students and heavily advertised across campus. Professors are also notified of election proceedings and encouraged to discuss them with their classes. The best part is that all this information is wrapped up in a nice, neat bow as an email to the entire student body at the beginning of the campaign period.
It will always be the goal of the Elections Commission to engage the student body in creative ways, but effective democracy also requires effort on behalf of the voting population. In a perfect world, I would sit down with every individual Marist student and discuss each candidate at length over a cup of tea. Unfortunately, until I get my hands on cloning technology, I have to rely on mass communication tools and cross my fingers that students will at least have the impetus to click on a link, or maybe even wander into the student center on Debate Night.
I am glad to have had the opportunity to address student concerns. The most important action you can take as a part of a democracy is to constantly question your government. I encourage all members of the student body to continually challenge their elected representatives at all levels, especially within Marist. Revolution is not supposed to be comfortable, but I hope that students feel empowered to seek clarification at all times along the way.