Columns

Jeanne Jeong ’12: How not to win a college election

By
Opinions Columnist
Thursday, April 16, 2009

Though the approval rating of UCS has increased since the fall to a little over 50 percent, the organization still remains somewhat of a mystery to the rest of campus. So it seems fitting that UCS elections should be equally baffling.

During the past few weeks, hopeful candidates for various UCS positions have been asking for signatures from anyone and everyone. Of course, this preliminary process certainly does popularize candidates’ names and faces. At the same time, however, it’s annoying. In many cases, the act of running around gathering signatures from random acquaintances of friends of friends makes people lose interest in the candidate and his or her platform. That is, if they ever cared about his or her platform.

Understandably, the process of getting signatures weeds out candidates who are not serious. Not that the upcoming election has really shown me what it means to be serious about UCS. But even the most dedicated aspiring politician might reconsider the decision to run if it means having to approach 200 pound football players in the omelet line at the Ratty after having exhausted the less-menacing Roots and Shoots regulars. Forcing candidates to seek out an obscene number of signatures, though it seems an easy task on paper, could discourage shyer but qualified candidates. Understandably, those in leadership roles should be outgoing and responsive to the student body. Asking for a signature, however, is like asking for a number at Fish Co. Most times it means nothing, and neither party will remember the other’s name.

Then there’s the next step: campaigning. More often than not, this also takes place at the Ratty. And once again, it destroys the quality of life of the average Brown student. Admittedly, when I say average Brown student, I mean me. Regardless, this average Brown student, enjoys rushed lunches between classes and long dinners before heading to the library. In neither of these cases does the student wish to talk to candidates about UCS, commit to voting for them or be reminded that the tables are still wobbly, despite UCS’ alleged efforts. As a result, campaigning is essentially ineffective. The platforms are often left ignored, people are bored and votes are haphazardly promised.

While on the topic of haphazard promises made with no intention of following through, I think it might be pertinent to discuss those pesky Facebook event invitations to Vote for (name) for (position). The gesture of checking “Attending,” “Maybe Attending” or “Not Attending” is polarizing, and the mass invitations are unappreciated. Extremely so, in fact, when they keep reappearing regardless of the multitude of times I remove the invitation from my events to avoid controversy. It may be easier to respond “Attending” to all invitations, but that could cause further complications. I would be publicly throwing my support behind more than one candidate, leading the others on and being altogether too undemocratic for such a clearly important election.

When election day rolls around, it seems unlikely that students will eagerly log on to MyCourses to vote. Not only is MyCourses difficult to navigate, but students may want to avoid a site whose primary use is disseminating homework assignments. This is not just conjecture; in last year’s UCS and UFB elections, only 1,346 ballots were cast (hardly an overwhelming percentage of the student body), and many abstained from voting for some positions on the ballot.

The fact that elections for the governing body are so random (for lack of a better word) is a little disheartening. UCS has been improving, as shown by polls, and has the ability to greatly benefit the student body. Yet because students don’t take elections seriously and candidates respond accordingly, I planned on voting the same way I did for positions in high school — for whoever gives out the best bribes. (For future reference, doughnuts work well.)

It would be different if the platforms weren’t all the same, or if people, including myself, knew what the majority of these contested offices did. And if the Ratty really did have less wobbly tables, so I would have something to believe in again.


Jeanne Jeong ’12 is from Ashburn, Va,. She can be reached at Jeanne_Jeong@brown.edu