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Commentary: Student Gov. elections were undemocratic

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(DePaul Student Government Association)

(DePaul Student Government Association)

(DePaul Student Government Association)

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It’s surprisingly easy to run for the President of the United States. You’re qualified to run if you are at least 35-years-old  and a natural-born citizen who has lived in the U.S. That, when combined with at least 270 electoral college votes, will deliver to you the highest office in the free world.

This year’s field of Student Government Association (SGA) presidential candidates didn’t fare as well.

After a backroom meeting between current SGA President Michael Lynch and Josh Kaufman/Nick Darlington caused the ticket to inexplicably withdraw, the only ticket remaining was the Jack Evans/Katy Bozich campaign – who were endorsed by Lynch.

But days later Evans was disqualified for “slander,” leaving only Bozich, who was ineligible without a running mate. She dropped out the next day.

For a couple seconds, it looked like there would be no candidates for 2018 student council president, but then – alas! – Alex Bednar and running mate Ryan Witry announced they were  running!

Then, suddenly, they  weren’t.

Based on a technicality, the current SGA denied the legitimacy of their campaign, referring to a constitutional caveat that says a student has to have held a full term as an SGA representative. This leaves a grand total of zero qualified candidates running for president. There’s about 28,000 students at DePaul, but Covarrubias and Lynch deemed only a handful of them worthy enough to represent the rest.

There’s a reason the framers of the Constitution left out previously holding elected office as a prerequisite for the presidency: Because those most familiar with the powerful become those most influenced by power’s allure.

Then, in a move that would certainly be more at home in a Russian presidential election than in a student council election, the Elections Operatbanned write-in candidates to keep out the undesirables – or perhaps to certify that the candidate that wins is one of their own.

But Lynch and Covarrubias weren’t finished slashing the democratic norms of elections past. If voting had gone on this week, as it was supposed to, students would have had five full days to vote. Now, the current administration wants a little more time to find a candidate that they approve of, and they have pushed the election back to May 3-5. Three days.

When they announced the new application deadline late on Wednesday night, candidates were given less than two days to file their intent to run.

Now Nahal Hashemian and Emily Hoey have announced their ticket, presumably with the blessing of the current administration; the former is Lynch’s chief of staff and the latter is a senator for the College of Education.

Remember Kaufman? The guy who withdrew from the race after the backroom meeting with Lynch? He threw his hat back in the ring.

But Kaufman and Darlington failed to submit proper election materials (which include simple forms) by the new application deadline, so they were out of the race for the second time in as many weeks. Apparently, filling out a form in the allotted two days proved to be too hard for the would-be president.

On Friday evening the election was over, a mere week before the new elections were set to close. Hashemian and Hoey are bound to win in an uncontested election, since they are the only candidates who were qualified to run.

This whole election has been, for lack of a better word, a shit show. The SGA administration has proven themselves to be unworthy of our students’ trust and the candidates have all proven themselves to be unworthy of our votes (not that we would even be afforded the opportunity to let our voices be heard at the polls anyway).

The student body was disallowed from voting for the candidates that they wanted, due to the candidates’ own inabilities, the current SGA administration’s revocation of write-in candidates and their silly rule of prerequisite prior service that could inspire patronage. Even the U.S. Constitution foregoes this requirement.

This election was carried out in denial of democratic election norms. If an election for public office played out as horrifically as this one did, it would likely culminate in criminal charges.

When this election began, for a brief moment I was encouraged. I thought we had two starkly different candidates, representing two different sects of DePaul ideologies.  In the first and unfortunately only debate between the candidates, we saw Kaufman and Evans square off on truly important issues at DePaul, of which we all know there are many. They civilly disagreed and both seemed like they had genuine goals for their presidency. For a brief second, I was hopeful SGA would actually accomplish something meaningful next year.

Maybe Hashemian and Hoey will have the courage to reform the broken electorate system that unduly handed them the presidency. Maybe next year the DePaul electorate will have the opportunity to choose our own candidates and not have them be chosen for us.

Maybe we will also be blessed with a field of candidates who can submit a form on time.

Maybe.

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Commentary: Student Gov. elections were undemocratic”

  1. Butch Oxendine on May 1st, 2018 9:13 am

    You don’t have to have previous experience with student government to become a competent leader of student government. It’s about training and more training. Student Governments around the country usually don’t invest much time in training of officers and members. Think about other major organizations/groups on campus– resident assistant, ambassadors, tour guides, athletes. All train constantly to be competent. Most student governments have a single one-day or part of day retreat and think that is enough to give them the knowledge they need for the year.

    Anyone who is not on academic probation and is a current student taking classes should be able to run for office!

    [Reply]

  2. Doug Klain on May 1st, 2018 5:10 pm

    Great commentary piece. From start to finish, members of Student Government displayed serious disregard for the integrity of holding an election and let their community down. Truly wish something would be done about this to hold people accountable.

    [Reply]

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Commentary: Student Gov. elections were undemocratic