On Saturday, the Columbia Elections Board will be hosting a mixer to encourage potential candidates to meet and form parties in preparation for the Columbia College Student Council and Engineering Student Council elections. Though forms to run for office are not due until after spring break, the Elections Board’s intention for this event is to encourage a wide variety of people to run for student council—something last year’s editorial board advocated.
The Elections Board’s goal is an important one—a broad range and large number of candidates running for student council are crucial to having a good student government.
An election in which students have a diverse selection with many candidates representing many different points of view will lead not only to a more ideas and perspectives, but also to a strong council. Substantive discussion during the elections process—around issues such as academic reform, housing policy, and club funding—is an essential step in setting the stage for the upcoming year in student government.
Students witnessed what happens when there is a shortage of candidates: Last year, both CCSC's and ESC's executive board, their class of 2014 councils, and their class of 2015 councils all ran unopposed. While it has certainly done good things for the undergraduate community, the current board’s lack of opposition limited the effort that it had to put in up front, as well as the number of ideas it introduced at the beginning of the year. Running against opposition legitimizes the winning parties, allowing the voters to offer feedback on candidates’ ideas and hopefully providing a solid groundwork for pursuing new and exciting policy directions.
Potential candidates may be intimidated by incumbency, as council members in the last few years have often sought re-election. This year, almost 60 percent of current CCSC and ESC members have previously been members of the councils. But the only way to ensure accountability is to make sure that elections are more than a rubber stamp—that they are a serious evaluation of where our community is and of the direction we want to see it move in.
So if you have ideas to improve our school, if you’re frustrated with the status quo, or if you simply hate NINJa printers, we encourage you to head out to the mixer and consider running for student council.
We hope that—to borrow a favorite phrase from Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan—the debate of campus issues during this year’s student council race will be “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” The student body can only benefit from such an election.
Joshua Boggs recused himself from this editorial due to his involvement in ESC.
To respond to this staff editorial, or to submit an op-ed, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.