With College Council elections in the fall and Slate elections in the spring, Student Government leaders normally expect a reprieve from campaigning during the winter. But that makes now the perfect time to reflect on procedures and infrastructure in anticipation of the big vote at the beginning of next quarter. While U of C students have never been the most bright-eyed politicians, it’s clear to every observer that SG lacks a certain zeal that belongs on every college campus. Comparing our SG to the College Councils and Student Senates of peer universities shows that SG has limited itself by maintaining an inept and exclusive structure and should call for reforms before this year’s Slate elections.
A couple of decades ago, SG had a variety of positions, and candidates didn’t have to choose running mates. These positions attracted so many students that the Maroon’s election insert consisted of several full pages of candidate bios. Partially to maintain control over elections, SG changed its policies to the current slate format, in which a president, vice president for administration, and vice president for student affairs are required to present themselves on a single ticket. Although this unorthodox system allows for organized elections (largely because there are usually only one or two serious slates in the running), its rigidity limits perspective to an extent that reduces SG’s effectiveness.
Student governments at almost all peer schools have a wider variety of leadership positions, and candidates are expected to have a specific drive and area of expertise in order to make beneficial changes. Instead of having three general leaders working with a very broadly focused College Council, SG should create multiple elected positions that would concentrate on areas like Health, Safety, Athletics, Campus Dining, Academics, and Greek Life. A president and vice president—elected separately from one another—could act as liaisons between SG, administrators, and the student body, while the College Council could still organize initiatives and lobby for student groups. But expecting the best student leaders to run in a slate election with each other, with the losers being turned away from SG entirely, is a counterproductive procedure. Additionally, expecting SG members to be familiar with all fields but masters at none means that there are no stand-out leaders to step up when they are confronted with an issue involving something specific, like a string of campus muggings, lackluster nutrition in the dining halls, long waits at the health center, or a fraternity stabbing.
Some may argue that this would create an uncontrollable number of positions. But SG is already on the right track to a gradual retrofit. Two years ago, the position of Community and Government Liaison was created, which is elected, specialized, and not tied to a slate’s ticket. SG should continue this step forward this year by introducing two more specialized positions in those areas which students deem most important. Once this new system takes shape, SG should work towards breaking apart the deficient slate concept.
If one thing is for sure on this campus, it’s that U of C students are insightful and full of good ideas. It’s about time that SG takes on a structure that is more open to its students’ unique abilities so that it can, in turn, serve them more productively.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.