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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Do students have a say? Skeptical students respond to elections

Published: April 4, 2008
Section: Features

It was election season again. Between seemingly thousands of flyers that littered the walls of nearly every building, and a singing candidate with a guitar and a harmonica on the Rabb Steps, it was hard not to notice the democratic sentiment which permeated this fine campus (apparently). But in this newfound fervor, it was easy to forget one of the more important factors which often goes overlooked in student elections: the reaction of the student body.

From fervent dislike of the entire process to strong support for the idea of student-run elections, it soon became clear that Brandeis students had mixed feelings and an apparent apprehensiveness towards electing Student Union officials. Many students reported displeasure of the number of candidates constantly accosting them for votes.

“I find it annoying when a candidate comes up to me in the library or even in my room and asks me to vote for them. They seem to always come as I’m trying to get my work done,” said Jordan Caruso ’11.

Some students went even further. “It loses meaning after awhile. After 500 people knock on your door, slide stuff under your door, or disrupt you in the library, you feel more apathetic towards the entire process,” said Logan Uretsky ’11. Ironically, in their zeal to convey their platform to potential constituents, many candidates ended up actually alienating their voters.

It is understandable to see how students would be disturbed by the process of student elections. As the name suggests, the candidates are still students.

“This doesn’t seem all that different from high school because people seem to want to hold office for the sake of holding office, not to actually get something done. Although I’m not all that disappointed, the whole thing is at the very least amusing,” said Chris Lavery ’10.

Many Brandeis students have similar concerns as to the integrity of the candidates. “I don’t know whether or not people are just pitching a gig for the sake of putting something good on their resume. It’s easy to say ‘I’m concerned about campus,’ but it’s hard to believe that a student cares much about his or her constituents,” said Brian Reeves ’11. “Even if I vote for a candidate and get him or her elected, I doubt I’ll see many changes around campus.”

Despite the somewhat downbeat response reported by many students, others strongly believe in the concept of elections. “I think it is very admirable for students to be interested in making a change around campus. It’s nice to know some people are dedicated to improving what goes on around here,” said Vladimir Lukashevsky ’11. This doesn’t come without a grain of salt however. “Although, I hope candidates actually stick to their platforms once elected,” he later added. Clearly, Brandeis students seem to be inherently suspicious of the entire concept of student- run elections.

Interestingly enough, some Brandeis students are wary of partisan politics which seem to be seeping into Brandeis Student Government. “I know some people who voted based on party lines: whether or not their candidate would be conservative or liberal in approving financial requests,” said Kate Curley ’11. “It’s interesting, and even slightly scary that these issues have penetrated all the way into student government.”

The political mindset of different candidates has actually become the deciding factor on whether or not they get votes, which lends to the belief that Student Elections have finally transcended popularity contests. Even if it was partisan politics that contributed to this, we can all be thankful for the positive effects, such as actually having candidates who stand for issues.

Ultimately, many Brandeis students have limited faith in the Student Union Government and its officers. At best, students believe that their government has strictly influential power over Brandeis Administrators and the Board of Trustees. At worst, students believe their government is a “pretend” one, which can only enact policies that may or may not be respected. In the end, we can only hope that the policies ratified by our elected officials are abided by, even if there is suspicion to their effectiveness in the first place.