Top offices uncontested
Last year, the month of March was
marked by student and candidate outcry
over the Student Government Association
(SGA) elections. During
the 2008 election season, four separate
tickets made bids for the presidency
and vice presidency, and every
class representative race boasted at
least two tickets (save for the Class
of 2010, as study abroad plans allowed
four people to run and split
representation between the spring
and fall semesters). This year, there
is only one ticket for SGA president
and vice president.
Following the initial election last year, an intense run-off erupted, during which anonymous posters and vicious Civil Discourse rants accused both tickets of poor tactics and even attempted to divide the campus along the "chem-free/chem-full" line.
As a result, SGA spent much of this year working to address these issues. Some of the solutions came to fruition in the form of the recently passed constitutional provisions, which included measures to bar negative campaigning. It comes as a surprise to many, then, that after such a tumultuous year, the race for the top offices of president and vice president are uncontested, as are those for most hall presidents and class presidents.
According to SGA President Patrick Boland '09, he has spoken with presidents dating back to 1997, and none can remember an uncontested president or vice presidential race. The only slots for which more than one candidate is vying are Dana, AMS and Taylor Hall Presidents, the Class of 2012 Presidents and SGA Treasurer.
Of the 30 races being decided this spring (excluding appointment positions such as Off-Campus and Alfond Apartments Representative), 26 of them are uncontested, including eight elections in which no candidates are running at all. Only the race for treasurer, which boasts five candidates-- an unprecedented number in recent College history--can be considered heavily contested.
The reasons driving this unusual election season remain unclear, with many students chalking it up to apathy among the student body. While Boland generally agrees with this, he believes that the presidential race may be uncontested due to the fact that so many experienced SGA members are choosing to run for treasurer instead. When polled by the Echo on this issue, many treasurer candidates indicated that their interest in the position stemmed from either their past experience on the SGA Finance Committee or a general interest in economics and accounting. A number of students also pointed out that the position of treasurer is "almost independent" and one in which a candidate can "indeed live up to the goals [they] set for [themselves]," as candidate Audell Scarlett '10 pointed out. Boland also hesitantly credited apathy for positions outside treasurer to the perception by some students that "the administration oversees everything... which was definitely talked a lot about last year."
Current SGA Treasurer David Metcalf '09 believes that while the independence has its benefits, it can also be burdensome to the treasurer. "There's very little administrative oversight ... I'd actually want more," Metcalf said, adding that "recent events have brought the position into the limelight."
Even in light of the enthusiasm for treasurer, SGA Vice President Cary Finnegan '09 remains puzzled by the current state of electoral affairs.
On the one hand "we have more people running for dorm president than we did last year, even though some are uncontested...but I can't wrap my head around why president, vice president, and multiple class representative positions only have one candidate," Finnegan said.
Both Boland and Finnegan find it strange that no "dark horse" candidates have emerged, as Boland put it. Based on precedent, Finnegan is also surprised that so few people are running, even if they were to do it for the wrong reasons. "Not that I want anyone to run for the room...but are people forgetting about the money or the rooms?" Finnegan asked. She also found the Clas of 2010 president race surprising, as people holding this position "get to do a lot, like run Senior Week and speak at graduation."
Despite the lack of candidates for most positions, however, candidates and current SGA members alike appear optimistic about next year's prospects. "All these treasurers are very qualified under the precedents set by past elections," Boland said, a sentiment shared by Metcalf.
Finnegan also pointed out that there are many dorm presidents returning to SGA next year, which she believes "says good things about SGA this year" in terms of the progress it has made.
Moreover, next year's treasurer is going to have a "big job" and will have to "reevaluate the system to determine if it needs an overhaul," Finnegan said. Boland also stressed that SGA will have to determine next year whether or not this year's attitude toward the election is "due to a general apathy or not."