EDITORIAL: Reprimand Student Union's campaign process
In the first round of Student Union elections on Thursday, 10 new members of the Senate and one new Representative to the Brandeis Sustainability Fund were elected to their positions. However, several seats remain unfilled, including Senators to Massell Quad, Rosenthal Quad, Foster Mods and the Charles River Apartments. Several of these vacancies are due to no one running for the positions while the Massell Quad race notably had two potential candidates: neither received any votes.
This board is concerned by the apparent lack of interest students hold in selecting the men and women who will act on their behalf and represent them to administrators but also wonders whether new Student Union policies are unintentionally complacent in this apathy. On Sept. 3, the Student Union announced a revised campaign policy forbidding students from posting fliers or distributing leaflets as part of their campaigns. According to a Sept. 8 Justice article, the policy change was implemented with the admirable intentions of promoting face-to-face campaigning and improving environmental consciousness, but this editorial board believes that if the Student Union eliminates poster and flier campaigning, then it must replace these techniques with a comparable method of informing the student body. Generating interest in elections is critical to building a serious student government.
In the past, poster and flier campaigning was a key method of making students aware of who was running for campus elected office, allowing candidates to build name recognition. In a Sept. 8 interview, Justin Carlisle ’14, the Student Union Chief of Staff, expressed, “Placing a ban on these campaigning methods will require candidates to focus on other techniques such as social media outreach, email and face-to-face interactions with voters.” While the Union’s intentions are admirable, this editorial board asserts that the new campaign method has not reached enough students and therefore has led to students being simply unaware of who is running or that an election is even taking place. Without the type of name recognition and interest generated by leaflets and flyers, the student body cannot begin to make informed choices about their governmental leadership, and has nothing incentivizing them to engage with the political process.
Not all candidates can devote their time, energy and resources to mounting a thorough campaign through social media and other outlets. Others lack the skills and experience necessary for such a process to be considered equal: Kate Kesselman ’19 told the Justice in an email that she wouldn’t have been able to generate interest in her campaign for Class of 2019 senator without the aid of friends and acquaintances, because she had never had a Facebook account before and didn’t know how to promote her campaign through social media. If the Union is to ban the more straightforward approach of flyering and leafletting, then the Union must also provide suitable alternatives to candidates who are negatively affected by this policy.
We suggest a debate be held in place of poster and flier campaigning. The debate would allow members of the student body who are invested in the process to become acquainted with candidates and better informed about their platforms. Students interested in running for office might take the stage, explain their goals and reasons for running and then take questions from the audience. While not all potential voters may choose to attend the debate, without such a system in place, it is almost assured that students will be neither interested in nor informed about their Union Senators.
Hopefully, new measures implemented by the Student Union will encourage those on campus to feel empowered by their choice in government, allowing them to ultimately make a more educated decision when voting comes around every new semester.