Every year around this time the hallways of PSU blossom like the cherry trees and magnolias that dot our campus. Okay, maybe it’s not that much like outside, because at PSU what the blossoming heralds is not spring, but another round of puerile, contentious in-fighting – that’s right, you guessed it, time for Student Government elections!
Like most of us, I don’t have the time to research the candidates’ philosophies in detail, so the vast majority of what I know and understand about the process comes from the flyers that coat our walls, pillars, lockers and windows, like long streams of pigeon shit hanging from the eaves of an old building.
I began to wonder if the folks running for office had any concept of the way all this clutter appears to the student body. After all, with laughable participation levels, shouldn’t the idea be to energize as many people as possible? Trust me when I say your sheaves of posters aren’t getting the job done, friends. If the scrawled obscenities, witticisms and various defacings of the candidates’ flyers are any indication, all the current advertising scheme does is piss people off and waste paper.
Let’s see if I have read the flyers correctly. Amanda Barron has great hair and dresses very well. She likes bright green and is for "accountability." She also is into "real issues" to which she’ll apply "real solutions." Erin Devaney is really, really nice. She’s into "corporate accountability" and some other things I can’t remember. She also likes stars a lot (this reference to many leftist movements’ emblems was not lost on the PSU College Republicans, see below). The breakdown seems to be thus: if you’re a radical, hippie, or gay, vote for Devaney/Woon. If you want to get rich and have a nice car, vote for Barron/Craven. Did I get it right? If not, maybe our candidates could have more substantive flyers.
The first thing that could be done would be to eliminate campus-wide flyering and create a central informational kiosk where all candidates could display their information. It could feature whatever pretty layout the campaigners wish, but would contain real, substantive information that could be consulted later to determine if the winner was true to her promises and goals. Any comments on the opposition would be banned – one could only discuss one’s own campaign, and in concrete terms rather than bland slogans. This would serve the double purpose of saving large amounts of paper (much of which has been noxiously tinted in a way that I know was not beneficial to our watersheds) and concentrating the info into one cohesive unit.
Secondly, I know folks like to bitch and rant (ahem), so create a space or forum where people could do just that. A prime example of what one could find there would be the hilarious poster created by the College Republicans. The cries of outrage over this obvious satire were predictable, but no less ridiculous, and were clearly exactly what the little fasc – oops, I mean, conservatives, were hoping for! People, I really don’t think they got into your bios and researched your ethnic background before creating that poster – they were saying that hippies are Communists! I’m sorry if it’s harsh, but that self-righteous anger made the candidates look like idiots; certainly Barron’s denunciation of the tactics rang more than a little false.
These students need to take the needs of the student body a whole lot more seriously, and themselves a whole lot less seriously. Habits like having a slate of people (or a running mate) who presumably think exactly as you do, or campaigning with mealy-mouthed pabulum rather than clear ideas, only contribute to the emptiness of the process, and, in the end, to irresponsible misallocation of thousands of dollars in funds. Just look at the divisive shambles into which our current ASPSU has devolved.
These elections matter. They can determine, in part, how high tuition goes, whether or not we get health insurance, how we handle HigherOne, and a host of other vital issues. That being the case, is it right that the whole thing is straight out of DeGrassi Junior High? Insisting on responsible campaigning will breed responsible candidates, it’s that simple.
Riggs Fulmer can be reached at [email protected]