Where your vote counts and where you have no choice
With Student Union elections coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, members from the two Senior Class Council slates (Legacy and Inspire) and the Executive Slate (Progress) spoke with the Student Life editorial board this past weekend to give us a glimpse into their plans for next year. Below is a summary of these meetings as well as our take on what they had to say. Note that not every slate member was present at these meetings.
Legacy (Senior Class Council)
Members: Varun Mehrotra (President), Daniel Raggs (Internal Vice President), Connie Shao (External Vice President), Asha Thomas (Secretary), Hilary Brownstead (Treasurer)
Our Take: The Legacy Slate seemed very optimistic in regard to its capabilities to galvanize the senior class through its three pillars: tradition, unity and innovation. It explained to us how those pillars are more than just positive-sounding words, giving examples of events that it felt backed up each idea. The “innovation” aspect seemed to strike us the most—one of the new senior gift ideas is a student-and-faculty dinner within each school, giving students a chance to thank their faculty. They were also ambitious with regards to multiple senior-year fixtures, saying they’ve already looked into possible locations other than Chicago for the senior trip and brainstorming ideas such as trying to set another world record during senior week. The candidate for president, Mehrotra, was president of his Freshman and Sophomore Class Councils, and his experiences there are no doubt a positive in evaluating the capabilities of this slate.
Inspire (Senior Class Council)
Members: Bailey Breems (President), Taylor Docking (Internal Vice President), Alex Williams (External Vice President), Sarah Harary (Secretary), Jake Lichtenfeld (Treasurer)
Our Take: The Inspire Slate seemed a bit more grounded and perhaps realistic in what it believed it could accomplish. Several of its members’ ideas that appealed to us revolved around the need to reflect on their times here, including a literal “bucket list” passed out to seniors and a “last chance campaign” featuring activities in St. Louis in which seniors could take part during their final three months here. The slate has also looked into a more tangible item such as a bench or plaque for the senior gift—something that students can come back and look at after graduation. In terms of experience, the slate does have two members (Docking and Breems) currently on SU Exec and another (Williams) who is currently the Junior Class Council president.
Outlook: Ultimately, both slates stressed the desire to give the class of 2014 the best possible senior year that they could, both offered specific plans regarding the senior trip and senior week and both mentioned the importance of getting input from their class members regarding their plans. While our staff, by a 5-2-2 vote, preferred the Inspire Slate due to its more pragmatic outlook and plans for implementation, we have a good deal of confidence in the ability of either slate to lead next year’s senior class.
Progress (SU Executive Officers)
Members: Matt Re (President), Liz Hay (Vice President of Administration), Michael Land (Vice President of Public Relations), Nick Palermo (Vice President of Finance), William Waldron (Vice President of Programming)
Our Take: The Progress Slate, barring an unforeseen and shockingly successful write-in campaign, will comprise the next set of SU executive officers as it is running unopposed. There were some positive takeaways in our meeting with the slate. Land’s enthusiasm and poise greatly impressed us, and both Palermo and Waldron displayed an excellent understanding of their positions. All three left us believing that their experiences within SU would serve them well in their respective positions. However, the two remaining candidates left us with some significant concerns. The position of VP of Administration demands a thorough understanding of Student Union’s inner workings because the job centers on internal processes. That Hay, who has no prior experience with SU, was selected for this position instead of a qualified SU representative leaves us concerned. She spoke to us at length about her goal of improving communication, but while that’s obviously an important aspect of SU Exec’s job, VP of Administration requires significantly more than bolstering relationships between senators and members of Exec. While she does have prior leadership experience with the Women’s Panhellenic Association, her lack of SU experience puts her at a distinct disadvantage in terms of carrying out the responsibilities of the office.
Finally, SU presidential candidate Matt Re has given us some reasons to be concerned. In our interview, he casually reminded us that his slate was the only choice we had, and that tone created a sense of complacency that we hope won’t last as he takes over his position. Furthermore, SU has a recurring problem with recruiting representatives—despite a recent reduction in senate seats—and this situation has not improved under Re’s tenure as VP of Administration. While we would have been open to ideas on how he planned to move forward in SU, he continued to look backward, stressing that his major focus would be to continue efforts started this year. Re also did not fill the position of Election Commissioner this semester until particularly late in the election process, leading us to question his ability to drum up interest in and enthusiasm toward next year’s SU elections. This also raises questions about his leadership ability, given that one of his main responsibilities as VP of Administration was recruitment and retention of SU representatives. His choice to approach Hay to fill his current position raises questions about his vision for SU as a whole. While he certainly has extensive SU experience, his tenure as VP of Administration has done little to recommend him for a higher position.
We hope at the very least that yet another uncompetitive SU election will highlight the chronic problem of recruitment and retention of SU representatives. Hopefully the stronger portion of an Exec slate will be sufficient until Hay is able to gain a stronger sense of internal SU procedure and Re can give more honest thought toward what “Progress” the slate will achieve in the coming year.