Section: Opinion

Student Council needs to reform campaign and election process

With Student Council elections underway, candidates for various offices have wrapped up their campaigns. Candidates made announcements on social media, pinned up posters in Peirce and emailed their platforms to the student body. Though the last two years saw most activities relegated to online meetings and emails, we now have a fantastic opportunity to connect with future members of student government. There is one issue, however: No such opportunity formally exists. This points to a broader issue with the process for electing Student Council members. 

Kenyon’s process for electing its Student Council is inherently obscure and allows candidates to provide little information about their platforms. It is entirely contained to various forms of written statements, thus failing to provide enough information to make an informed vote. Once voting closes, the level of student engagement is kept hidden, leaving it unclear how much students actually care about their government. Going forward, the Student Council should act to make the campaign and election process more public and active.

The lack of organization in Student Council elections has been apparent from the start. Though there is a deadline to run for a position, the official candidates are not formally announced until voting opens. Students are then asked to vote within a week, based on a written statement from each candidate. 

Candidates may also advertise through social media, posters and emails, but this amounts to little more than repeating the same talking points. This process is opaque and not conducive to informed decisions about those running, as it allows candidates to make bold and vague claims with no chance for examination of their positions.

To remedy this lack of information, candidates should be expected to do more than provide a short message detailing their platform — they should be provided a clear space to publicly advertise their positions, and then elaborate on and answer questions about their positions in front of an audience. 

Candidates for Student Council president, at minimum, should be subject to a town hall-style forum, which would ensure candidates are well-rounded and capable of tackling various issues that are most pressing to students. A physical list of who is running should be made public and easily accessible, such as by organizing a display in Peirce soon after the deadline to enter. Perhaps these initiatives could be handled by the Student Life Committee, who already runs elections. 

Lastly, the results of elections should be made clear. As a democratic institution, the Council’s power is based on public support from the students. What Council members pursue in committees, and how they vote at meetings, is motivated by what they consider to be in the best interest of the student body. Since they have won over a majority of voters, Council members can act with the confidence that they are effective voices for students — that students support and agree with them. It is difficult, however, to tell how the student body feels about their government because there is no public record of how many students voted. Many elections are also uncompetitive, as most Student Council positions see few students run for them, and some candidates even run unopposed. Once voting closes, the student body is only notified of the names of the victors, not the numerical outcomes of each election. The Student Council should publish voting counts, which would reflect student interest, once voting closes. 

Having a Student Council that is accountable and powerful means it should be made up of students who are not only personable, but practical and responsible. If students are interested in a government that reflects their needs and has the power to fulfill them, then the Student Council should make its electoral process as active and public as possible. 

 

Garrett Culbertson ’23 is a political science major and Japanese minor from Columbus, Ohio. He can be reached at culbertson1@kenyon.edu 

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