By the time you are reading this, we will have a brand new student government.
Did you vote? If you are like me, you found it particularly hard to do so.
In the last few weeks, we have been told again and again how important it is for us to vote. It is an exercise of your power as one individual in a relatively small population of students. It is a great way to use your student voice. It enhances the legitimacy of student government as an accurate representation of the student body, giving them more of an ability to enact effective change.
It's important to vote, and everyone should do it. That much is popularly established.
This year's two major campaigns – We Are UT and Keny-Dugosh – were, in my eyes at least, lackluster. Both had policy points constructed with the passive understanding of student government as something that does not and, more importantly, will not matter for anything substantive.
The things they pushed as their primary goals – paperless tickets for football games, chargers in the library – are solutions to inconveniences. These are things that would be nice to have, sure, but as add-ons – not as primary policy.
Keny-Dugosh introduced their policies with the statement, "We do not want to be a laundry list of false promises." We Are UT purportedly sought administrative approval before making their policy points.
They may have had feasible plans to fix small inconveniences for the student body, but in the way that they constructed and advocated for their campaigns, it was clear that they believed that this is all student government can – and perhaps even should – have the power to do.
I did not want to cast my vote for and therefore endorse this kind of thinking.
But, as we've all been told, voting is important. Here we have a negative feedback loop. If students don't vote, student government has no legitimacy. If student government has no legitimacy, it really is, in effect, just as powerless as these two campaigns believe it to be.
There was, of course, one other campaign – [Insert] – a parody. Voting for them, I have been told, would be tantamount to voting for the failure of the system. I would be legitimizing the illegitimate. If [Insert] had won, they would have even further delegitimized the worth of student government in the eyes of the administration.
As I am writing this now, I do not know the results of our election. I do not know what percent of our population voted in the elections. I do not know who won. In all probability, the results have been insignificant, and a group of people that will uphold the administrative view that student government is not really all that important have been elected.
[Insert] may not have initially been a legitimate campaign, but they stayed in the game much longer than most of us expected because they spoke to a population of people that found their message far more legitimate than anything either of the other campaigns offered. It is a sad irony that despite their silly promises of a moon base and a campus microbrewery, they were taking student government more seriously than the people seriously running.
In many countries where voting is mandatory, citizens express both their support of the democratic system and their displeasure in the options they have by submitting a blank ballot. It is a serious move considered an important social tool by which citizens can signal their belief that there is a lack of legitimacy. [Insert], quite literally in name and policy options, was a blank ballot.
[Insert] may have been a joke, but their votes should not be taken as jokes. As we move forward with our new student government, we ought to consider why a parody campaign actually resonated with this group of people. And, we ought to do something about it.
Melissa Lee is a senior in College Scholars. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.