The University should loosen restrictive SGA campaign legislation

Nathan James

If you’re a new student who’s thinking of seeking out opportunities in student government, you’re in luck. Our student handbook tells us that SGA elections are for any student who meets a modest GPA requirement.

But don’t get ahead of yourself. Remember that candidates aren’t allowed to leave fliers in university buildings, or distribute T-shirts before the day of the election, or have their own websites, or announce their candidacy without the University’s permission, or announce their candidacy in an event lasting more than one hour. Additionally, remember the $600 campaign limit for executive offices, and make sure to submit every shred of your campaign material for University approval 24 hours before posting.

Also, try not to get too upset when a Greek candidate crushes you. It happens to everyone.

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be rules surrounding when and how SGA candidates can campaign, because obviously you want to keep the process pure. You don’t want wealthy candidates to buy votes by holding massive parties, and you don’t want campaign materials plastered over every inch of campus. By restricting the scope of campaigning activities, administrators ensure that a candidate’s capital doesn’t win him the election.

The problem with this system is that it doesn’t restrict the only capital that really matters, which is Greek support. We all know that the Greek system mobilizes during elections to rally for Machine candidates, and we all know that Machine-backed candidates win their elections. I think we also know that’s not a coincidence.

So now we’re in a vicious cycle. It’s impossible for a non-Machine candidate to drum up the support to beat 8,600-plus Greeks, so no one bothers to vote or oppose Machine candidates. This makes it even less likely that someone will somehow beat the system and get elected without Greek support.

Let’s not beat around the bush. By prohibiting almost all campaigning activities, our administration is actively crippling all non-Machine candidates. Moreover, they’re creating a community where political activism is stifled at the executive level.

Voter participation is all well and good, and we should absolutely encourage the Univerisity’s student body to be more active. But we shouldn’t let that argument distract us from the fact that our SGA electoral process is broken, and administration is keeping it that way. And until our administrators can show a good faith effort to improve things, no one is likely to convince our student body that voting is worthwhile.

So let’s allow candidates to have their own websites. Let’s give them longer than two weeks to drum up support. Let’s allow them to distribute buttons and t-shirts. Let’s even raise the spending limit a little bit.

Why not make changes? A restrictive, unfair and dysfunctional system is all we have to lose.

Nathan James is a junior majoring in public relations. His column runs weekly.