SGI Elections: Just Another Popularity Contest

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It is election season around St. John’s again. The remainder of this week will have 15 students running around campus with posters and flyers trying to convince the student body that they know what’s best for the student body. They yell out acronyms that mean absolutely nothing, dress in the same colors and invite you to “like” their page on Facebook. They make promises to change everything that you hate about St. John’s, hoping to scrape in that one extra vote. It’s all a bunch of crap.

This year, there are two parties represented and one independent candidate. The first “political party” is Be Original. Lead Different [sic].(B.O.L.D.). This party is led by its Presidential candidate, Kevin Grover, who currently serves as vice president of SGI. Finding Our Common United Stance (F.O.C.U.S.) is the other party this year. F.O.C.U.S.’s leader is Christian Williams, currently a Junior Representative with the  Curriculum Committee.

According to its Facebook page, B.O.L.D. is supposedly looking to change the atmosphere in SGI. They plan to start a new type of charity program through SGI and change the ways that the government operates through committees, programming and funding. F.O.C.U.S., in turn, has four areas posted on its website that it’d like to “focus on:” Students, Greek Life, SGI, and Organizations. They aim to “provide a voice to the Greek Life Community”, “bring back a fall and spring concert” and ensuring SGI advisory committees are listening to student concerns. Both of these parties seem to have good, though vague, ideas about what they would like to change if elected. Neither group delves far into how they plan to make these goals into realities. Their generic stances do not garner many enemies, but similarly no one is clamoring to join either party.

Last year there was a nasty election battle between F.O.R.C.E. and P.O.W.E.R. with punishments doled out on both sides and fierce competition. At the end of the day, the elected board was split between the two parties. P.O.W.E.R. provided four members, including Grover; while F.O.R.C.E. elected three. Almost a year later, it’s unclear to the average student which campaign points were actually implemented from either party.

While doing research for this editorial, a very disturbing connection was found between the parties running for election this year and the parties from last year. F.O.C.U.S. seems to have literally copied P.O.W.E.R.’s mission. This would not be such an issue if the two parties shared members, but there are no members from P.O.W.E.R., elected or unelected, running on F.O.C.U.S. Rather, the only candidate in this year’s election from P.O.W.E.R. is B.O.L.D. presidential candidate Grover. Yes, you read that right. He is now running against the very mission statement and beliefs that he was elected for last year.

Since middle school, class elections have rarely been more than popularity contests. Unfortunately, the stakes have continuously risen – from deciding when the sixth grade spring fling should be to managing a budget of almost $2 million for the University.

The political party system at St. John’s is used to group overall popularity indexes to achieve the common goal of being elected. Candidates form these groups based on mutual benefits, rather than mutual beliefs. Both parties have steered clear of taking stands on major issues facing St. John’s students. They do not show how they would accomplish the few positions they’ve championed over the campaign. Maybe this is because they know they won’t actually be able to fulfill them. Maybe it’s because P.O.W.E.R./F.O.C.U.S. really likes their mission statement and hopes to use it again next year. Either way, these are unacceptable actions from the candidates.

Then there’s the fifteenth candidate, Mike Lopato, who is running as an independent for Senior Senator. Lopato seems to be the only candidate who tackles real student issues in his mission statement. He explains his stances on things such as the Student Activity Fee and the proposed smoking ban, as well as his promise to provide more representation to the smallerorganizations. He gives precise examples of things that he plans to vote for, or vote against. Reading through this mission, you see what you will get if you vote Lopato, something you cannot say about any of the other candidates. Though I do not personally agree with many of the stances Lopato takes, it must be commended that he has had the bravery and integrity to break through the party nonsense, and for being straightforward in explaining his views to the voters.

The only way to learn what the rest of the candidates actually think, what they want to do with the University and most importantly, how they plan to do it, is by going to the annual SGI debate on Thursday and asking them. And don’t toss any softballs, get to the point. Make them answer you on their own. You are voting for them to represent you. Make sure that’s what they’ll be doing.

Political parties work in our country because they stick to a group of common morals and values that help describe politicians within the party. The parties’ beliefs largely remain unchanged from year to year, and can only gradually change once a generation. Political parties do not work at St. John’s because they change. Every year. Their beliefs change, the people change, the acronyms change. They literally mean nothing – except as ploys to convince people to vote for people that their friends like. And so that they can plan the Spring Fling and spend all our activity fees in the process.