Slating the slate system
In the past few weeks, freshmen were assailed with chalk messages and free giveaways to vote for one of the slates in the Freshmen Class Council elections. While the results have been announced and “All State” is celebrating, few understand the implications behind the slate system.
In order to run, you form a slate, which consists of you and four other candidates running for the other positions. Though it is possible to run as an independent, the slate system discourages people from doing so; in recent years, no one has memory of an independent candidate winning an election. When the slates are official, they compete to win the minds of students. But when polling time comes, the ballots are set up so that constituents vote for individuals, not slates, which makes the role of the slates pointless. Though some may say the slate system sets the bar for campaigning, it sets the bar too high due to the necessity of forming a team first, quickly. The election registration form went online at September 3, and they had to be completed by the mandatory candidates meeting on September 13. That leaves no more than 10 days for freshmen to scramble for slates. It pressures them to form connections within the first few weeks of school. For many, this is an intimidating mission to accomplish while living in a completely new social environment and encountering people from all over the country and world. Those who take longer time adjusting or don’t know the right people are disadvantaged. Some students may be political activists or have some of the greatest, most creative plans for the next four years, but because they could not meet the slate system’s unrealistic standards, their potential voices are lost.
When the election results are announced, they produce officials who do not possess or enact firm plans of action. Such is the case with the new Freshman Class Council president, Arjun Grama, who received 252 of the votes for president, 34 percent of the student votes. In last week’s Student Life article, Grama’s plans were described as “intangible.” Grama said that he hopes “to draw the freshman class into closer community” and establish that “[All Slate] were interested in doing what they wanted rather than just following our own goals. We made it very clear that we were there to serve them.” These trite, lackluster statements are exactly what make any elected official appear insincere. Though the slate system encourages creative campaigning for the slates, if it yields such inadequate officials, then the system needs to be reconsidered.
To make elections more effective, slates should be removed and replaced by a different voting method. The voters for the Freshmen Class Council Elections should be the members of the Residential College Councils. Though these councils operate on a smaller scale, they have goals similar to those of the Freshmen Class Council. And since they themselves ran for candidacy not long before class council elections, RCC officials have campaigning tactics fresh in their memory and, therefore, possess better knowledge of assessing candidates. They were elected by their residential peers, so they will have the best interests in mind of their constituents. With a more attentive audience, elected officials will be compelled to have substantial platforms, not vague clichés, and run based on their ideas, not their slates.
The Freshmen Class Council is much more than election results. The officials establish a precedent for the next four years, and if they are insufficient, then their council will flounder and be replaced. It is better to start strong and remain consistent. To prevent a history of shortcomings, we need to change the slate system, a process that has been established but never directly challenged. We need to erase the slate system and begin on a clean, white slate.