By the time this column is printed, voting for the Student Confederation elections will be well underway. While most students will be itching to fly away to home or semi-tropical havens for Spring Break, others will be itching to see who wins the SC elections Tuesday night. This year, the races for president, vice president, secretary and comptroller are populated with viable candidates, unlike the hideous farce of last year’s sparsely-contested fiasco. However, as some of this year’s candidates have vocalized, the SC is not Congress.
For this reason, most students will not vote and will not care. And who can blame them? As students saw last year, one cannot even be sure the elected candidate will choose to serve at all. Current SC President Nick Terzulli has been almost as hard to find or talk to as AU President Benjamin Ladner, and if his recent State of the University ATV address is any indication, he doesn’t seem to have ever taken the job as seriously as he should have. The last visible and accessible SC president AU had was Ken Biberaj, who was the last president to serve more than one term. In the last few years, programming has improved - many of us still remember the infamous Snow Day debacle (which occurred during Biberaj’s reign) and other such strange uses of student money. However, students remember presidents more than vice presidents, and the president should be the face of the SC and should be able to capably and frequently interact with a variety of students.
Unfortunately, the candidates who can achieve this sort of accessibility and interaction are probably not going to win the election, either because they don’t have enough student government experience or because they have unrealistic goals. “Big” Steve Gilbert is the best of these “outsider” candidates, and while AU’s self-inflating political pundits balk at someone who doesn’t have strong ties to the General Assembly or the SC, many students might embrace Gilbert because he does not have those ties. Most of the people who vote in the SC elections have strong ties to either the GA or the SC, or at least to some of its members. Those who vote and don’t have those ties are either genuinely concerned students, of which there are few, or students who have been dragged by their friends or enticed by free candy.
AU is a very political campus, but that does not always equate with excitement or concern about the SC. Many students, like myself, are very interested in national political issues but don’t really care that much about the SC. After all, national politics will affect our entire lives, while AU politics will only affect a few years of our lives - and that effect is very limited once one moves away from campus. Many students, like myself, feel that the SC and GA are elitist clubs that thrive on melodrama and self-serving cliques. Outsider candidates have a chance to break student government out of that rut, but it takes a lot of momentum to break the barrier of SC-GA incumbency.
I don’t purport to be the voice of most AU students any more than this page’s other columnists, but I am attracted to outsider candidates because I am an AU political outsider as well. I am not a member of College Democrats, College Republicans, or College Libertarians, and other than a couple years of workers’ rights action for AU Solidarity - a wonderful club whose actions I still follow and support - I’ve kept myself out of AU politics and out of controversy. Apathy toward the SC and its current elections does not mean apathy toward politics, however, and anyone who does not vote in the presidential election in November has no right to complain about its outcome. Of course, it necessarily follows that anyone who doesn’t vote in the SC elections has no right to complain, and this is why outsider candidates like Gilbert, John Lancelot and Matt Miller must have an extra sense of urgency and enthusiasm to attract new voters. If an outsider candidate is finally elected, and if he does a reasonable job, student apathy toward the SC will significantly decline.
On the flip side, the SC president has obligations to all students, not just the ones who voted, not just his friends and not just his followers who work in student government. Apathy toward the SC is a heavy stone to overturn, and while candidates like Polson Kanneth are well-qualified and friendly, they often do not have a strong appeal to the average AU student. I encourage every student to vote in the SC elections, but I don’t expect it, and it’s not entirely fair to chastise non-voters when our student government system is so unstable and factional.