Staff ed: Student Life endorses Scales, Kish for SU exec
The past year for Student Union has been one of ups and downs: From the kickoff of the Opportunity Fund to the backlash surrounding last semester’s WILD headliner, SU has had its fair share of drama. But the most prominent turmoil seems to be happening internally. Of the five executive board positions, two are uncontested (VP of Administration and VP of Public Relations) and two (VP Programming and VP Finance) have no candidate at all. The fact that the race for president is the only truly competitive one represents the reckoning SU currently faces: People simply don’t want to join.
And this crossroads cannot be explained by the usual student apathy. SU faces a very real disconnect—both internally, between Senate and Treasury and externally, between SU as a whole and the general student body. To compound this, there seems to be a misalignment between the SU constitution and how SU actually operates. The good news: With the upcoming election comes a chance to confront these rifts.
The SU president represents the leader at the helm of this readjustment period. In the eyes of the Editorial Board, the position needs a vocal, active member of Student Union who is willing to confront its primary areas of weakness: retention, recruitment and its troubling lack of diversity. The candidates vying for the position—freshman Joe Rogan and juniors Anthony Scales and Grace Egbo—represent a wide range of experiences with Student Union and offer varying solutions to try to mend its wounds, making the final decision on who to endorse a tough one for us.
For Scales, the transition from ArtSci Council president to SU president seems almost natural. Scales platform to “get SU excited about SU again” is exactly what Student Union needs, and for this, he earns our endorsement. Disappointed by the lack of competition for Exec and for Senate and Treasury seats, Scales realizes the necessity of recruitment, as well as his ability to oversee recruitment efforts as president. His firsthand experiences of difficulty dealing with previous exec boards and contact with the administration make him a well-qualified candidate to represent SU, which in turn represents the student body as a whole. Scales comes across as direct, easily understandable and approachable. Separate from his inherent eagerness to restore the student body’s trust in SU, his idea to request a strategic plan from all student groups and SU entities helps reinforce SU’s place on campus.
Egbo, currently a member of Treasury, presented the unique idea of “focused outreach” to give marginalized groups on campus a seat at the table. Her ideas fit hand in hand with Scales’ goals and represent a potential means to an end but are things that don’t necessarily need to be implemented from the position of president. The core of her vision—that Exec needs to work to redefine the face of SU—could be better achieved from one of the other currently unfilled exec roles. Rogan, who also currently serves as a Treasury representative, has the enthusiasm that we hope every member of SU feels. Despite this enthusiasm, he is unqualified to serve as president. Increasing the accessibility of SU members is a commendable idea, but we think he can best accomplish this goal in the next year by remaining a member of Treasury.
The role of VP Admin, perhaps one of the most vaguely defined SU positions, is filled well by freshman Steven Kish. We are confident in Kish’s abilities to tackle the two main challenges faced by VP Admin: the lack of people joining SU and the disparate groups it encompasses. His observation that people tend to identify as belonging to a certain segment of SU rather than SU as a whole pretty much sums up the crux of the reason why they’re in a rut in the first place. The cohesiveness of his tangible ideas for action (instituting entrance and exit interviews for members and a commitment to listening before reacting) and his intangible goals (the empowerment of various pre-existing student groups) bodes well for the coming year.
For the final position for which we were presented a registered candidate, VP Public Relations, we’re at a loss. We feel that we are unable to endorse candidate junior Rory Mather. Out of all five candidates interviewed, Mather was the only one to not indicate the noticeable division between SU entities and students. In fact, he said the opposite: that people already know how SU functions, but that it needs work internally to make it function more smoothly. While an admirable goal, the role of VP Public Relations is to communicate between the student body and SU. As pointed out by the other candidates, this is an area that could add to SU’s much-needed facelift.
Additionally, when asked about his role in leading It’s On Us, the sexual violence education and bystander intervention program, Mather cited the more extensive knowledge of facilitators as showing that they are better equipped to run their own program. Yes, the educators are more knowledgeable than the average person about issues relating to sexual violence, but their job is to change that. And Mather, while not obligated as per the SU constitution to run the program, is supposed to be their advocate as VP Public Relations. He cannot pass the buck by citing his own lack of understanding. Reinforcing the importance of It’s On Us within SU and the Washington University community should be one of the pillars of his platform, not something pushed to the side. Mather does have some well-developed ideas, like the use of SafeZones and other related groups in decision-making processes, but we think that his overarching objectives require more insight. While we understand that he is the only person running and will most likely win, we hope that he will take some of our suggestions into account when making decisions and finalizing his goals for the upcoming year.
The two remaining positions, VP Programming and VP Finance, remain vacant, with the exception of a few possible write-in candidates. The uncertainty of their fulfillment mars SU’s future, a future that necessitates change. As advocates of the student body, SU representatives—both Exec members and beyond—must be willing to confront the challenges they will face in the coming year (specifically issues of retention and recruitment) with respect to the mere filling of positions and the diversity of those elected.
Ultimately, the power lies in the hands of the students voting this Tuesday, March 6. If you were upset about something SU did over the past year, vote! If you think Wash. U. should be a more inclusive and accepting place, vote! If you want to remain engaged in your community, vote! SU elections are one of the easiest ways to hold fellow members of your community accountable and to let them know the changes you think should be made in the next year.
Editor’s Note: Editor-in-Chief Ella Chochrek and Managing Editor Noa Yadidi were recused from discussions concerning the position of VP Public Relations.