column Enkhzul Badral
It began when nominations for Student Government Elections opened on January 7, 2015. Unamusing cat posters and memes were found online and plastered around campus, urging students to nominate worthy candidates. Then, on Jan. 22 when candidates were confirmed, the campaign posters began littering our elevators and bulletin boards. These posters read phrases like, “Wow. Much Dependable. Such Advocacy.” and “Vote beauty.”
“This student government will set a precedent for those to come. A good start is important,” David Chappell of Saga College said in his statement of intent. I wholeheartedly agree. If the student government campaigns set a precedent for coming elections, we should be worried. So far they have been nothing but an embarrassment.
It seems that those campaign posters which pander to our short attention spans are indeed the only way candidates can let the rest of our student body know who exactly is running. As of Jan. 29, the Statements of Intent on the Yale-NUS Elections 2015 Facebook page had zero likes.
Is it not shameful that we have to resort to doge and Professor Dog memes to make sure a candidate’s name isn’t being seen for the first time as a student casts their vote? An informative and serious poster would still fulfill the purpose of letting students know who is running, and yet there were none. Alex Meyer’s poster was the closest thing to what I have wanted to see over the past twelve days, and it still failed to inform us of anything other than his phone and room number.
Consider Simonas Bartulis’ poster, the aforementioned “Vote beauty” campaign. While memorable, the poster suggests that students should value looks over what a candidate’s strengths and goals are. Had this been at any other college, I might think that it reflects an incompetent student body that cannot handle serious issues. Certainly, this suspicion would be reinforced by posters like Daniel Silverman’s. My (least) favorite poster of his reads, “My favorite element is Ag Because It’s The Closest To Silverman.” What kind of leadership qualities does this poster demonstrate? What kind of values is this poster indicative of? Other candidates created posters and online images that were at best cute or silly, and the remaining candidates did nothing at all.
Imagine the embarrassment we will feel in 20 years’ time when reflecting on our first Student Government elections. Consider the professors and visitors, who see the posters in our elevators and ask, “What is that?” They did not read our statements of intent; they did not attend our speeches last Saturday. They only see that our student body seems ill-equipped to cast informed votes and that our elected representatives seem unready for the responsibility they will shoulder as of Feb. 6. These posters are the most viewed and easiest method of communicating with our administration and student body, yet candidates have opted for trite slogans squandering their best way of informing their community.
But it is not just the candidates we have to blame; the student body too is at fault. I spent Jan. 28 casually asking students who they were going to vote for, and each responded that they were too busy with other activities to actually pay attention to Student Government. The voting constituency has idly allowed elections to turn into a popularity contest, a contest of who can get the most sniggers and smirks. If we, the students, had demonstrated that we do care about who we are voting for and what our candidates’ goals are, perhaps candidates would have addressed us seriously. Similarly, if candidates had expected more from us at the start, I know we would have risen to the occasion.
These popularity campaigns indicate that candidates are not ready for their positions, and that the student body is not ready to cast informed votes. Many of the candidates claim in their Statements of Intent that they will help student groups get more funding, try to improve our health insurance, and facilitate more meaningful feedback through appropriate avenues when problems arise. Yet, a majority of students still don’t know what issues each respective person wants to focus on, and it’s likely people will end up voting only for their friends. If we vote this way, we may not pick the best candidates. If candidates maintain the mentality they have demonstrated until now, I am skeptical our representatives will bring any real change to our community.
We postponed voting until now in order to have adequate time and manpower. We made that choice because we wanted to ensure that we have the best start possible. And now we are almost out of time. Voting begins tomorrow, so please, take the few hours we have left to inform yourselves and engage the candidates. We only get one chance to vote in the first Student Government.