I have served on the Supreme Court of our undergraduate Student Government since the fall of my freshman year. Now, as a senior, I have seen four elections for President of Student Government. It is a wonderful thing to see regular students channel their love for our school into the hard work and long hours it takes to run for office. These are students just like us, with classes and work and other obligations who should be applauded for their commitment to serving the student body.
However, elections themselves have become increasingly bitter and have essentially become two weeks of finger-pointing and acrimony. In all four presidential elections I have been present for, the Supreme Court has been required to hold trials to hear multiple violations of our Elections Codes, which are the binding rules for candidates. More than once, every candidate in the race has had violations submitted against them by their respective opponents. This year will mark the second year in a row that the announcement of the results of the elections had to be delayed until all the alleged violations could be sorted out.
This is a shame. It overshadows the candidates and their platforms and more unfortunately, inherently questions their ethics. It also has a genuinely detrimental effect on the process itself. When campaigns are found guilty of campaign violations the Court does have the power to disqualify that ticket. Of course, doing so nullifies the voices of those students who have voted. If rampant violations continue, it is only a matter of time before the Court is forced to decide an election and not the students. Further, I have personally seen how sniping between campaigns creates real divisions among student leaders who may later be required to work together in some capacity, win or lose.
I would implore all future candidates and campaigns to learn the Election Codes and educate supporters on what constitutes a violation. Most importantly though, consider the tone and character of the race you want to run. It serves no one to submit petty violations against an opponent, spread disinformation behind their back, and create a constant atmosphere of negativity.
Dwight Eisenhower once wrote, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible.”
Hopefully our elections can hold true to that notion.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court