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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Rethinking Union election schedule

Published: April 12, 2013
Section: Editorials

Student Union elections are around the corner, signaled by flyers on dormitory doors and new Facebook notifications to join groups in support of different candidates. However, these are some of the only signs that the student body receives during elections. At this point in the spring, with finals creeping up on everyone and spring festivities blooming to distract us from studying for these finals, Student Union elections come at quite an inopportune time. The success of candidates is based mainly off of name recognition, proven by the transition of Union officials to Union presidents. Students receive emails every week, and even if they do not read them, the name of the sender sticks in their heads. Because of this disconnect between the candidates and voters, officials can get elected without a solid platform to be held accountable for throughout their term. If elections were held or even just announced earlier in the semester, candidates could run more in-depth, issue-based campaigns that voters could actually compare. A top priority for the Union should also be to predict the online problems that occur nearly every election cycle, contact the organization administering the elections beforehand and ensure voting runs smoothly. Student government serves as an effective voice to communicate between the student body and the university’s administrators and trustees. Students running for office demonstrate their desire to campaign on the issues. They send detailed proposals and platforms to club leaders in an effort to gain their endorsements. And students want to vote for candidates based on what they will do to improve university policies. At larger universities, students plan their campaigns months ahead of time. While we aren’t advocating for semester-long campaigns, we do support the opportunity for candidates and students to interact in person during a period of several weeks, rather than simply communicate through email in a quick one-week sprint. Yet, the current system, largely a product of the week-long campaign, leaves no choice but to vote for the candidate with the most name recognition. Whatever the results of next week’s elections, we hope students will take seriously the need to reform the voting system and schedule. A number of serious issues, including dining, academic course selection, board of trustee relations, campus crime, club organization and tuition increases, are worthy of informed and respectful debate. But we have to give students the chance to campaign, and it can’t be done properly in just one week.