by Justus Bell
Editor’s Note: On October 15, the Purple published an op-ed entitled “The unfortunately realistic decline of the SGA” by Junior Editor Page Forrest. This is one member of Student Government’s response.
I’d like to thank Page Forrest (C’17) for her analysis of the current conditions of the election process of the SGA. While I don’t agree that the members of SGA are products of a “broken system,” I concur that a revamp of the campaigning and election processes is a concept worth considering and pursuing. Forrest implies that the students who are most widely known and/or have the most creative campaigns are the ones ultimately elected by the student body at large. I do not agree that this is a broken system; I agree that this is, indeed, campaigning (and inherently democracy) fully at work, and mirrors the election process of the United States as a whole, for better or worse. Those who have the ability and creativity to surmount campaigns that draw name and relationship recognition simply will do so in a competitive election. I do not fault any candidate for pursuing a campaign strategy that advantageously utilizes his or her unique characteristics in pursuit of winning an election. That is just the nature of marketing and competition, which form the essence of a campaign.
I would also counter Forrest in saying that the SGA is indeed representative of the student body. With every member participating in an extremely diverse range of extracurricular activities, living in a broad array of theme, language, and Greek houses and dorms, and each bringing a different view to every issue presented, I cannot be truthful in saying that we do not have a diverse group of students representing our peers. However, I do agree with Forrest that perhaps an SGA that is more representative of the issues at large could be an improvement, that is to say, the elections could be more issue-oriented, not candidate-oriented. Implementing that, of course, could be manifested in a variety of ways: scheduled debates on pressing issues facing Sewanee’s students could be held, required statements from each candidate that address each of the said issues must be submitted at regular intervals throughout the campaign season, or even each candidate must publicly address a gathered audience are a few ideas that come to mind.
Nevertheless, I am willing to say that the SGA is functioning well. Its members were elected from voters who chose them for a variety of reasons, ranging from a creative campaign ad that stuck out to knowing a candidate personally, from agreeing with a candidate based on his/her privately expressed views to, indeed, the “eenie-meenie-miney-mo” method. However its members were elected, SGA is produced from a system that—just like its American big brother—has room for improvement, but is nothing more than old fashioned democracy at work. And who knows? As any House of Cards fan will tell you, “Democracy is so overrated.” True or not, let’s just not make the mistake of underrating it.