dynamics, debate and the coming race

Because the UC race starts tonight at midnight, I thought I would offer today an opening thought. Since I’ve been there- a year ago I was the campaign manager for the Glazer/Capp ticket- I might be able to over an insight or two that may be left out of other forms of coverage. Then again, I may not, so feel free to chime in if I say something stupid… Because of the fact that neither ticket has released a platform, a set of priorities or a message, I won’t comment on them much here. However, I wanted to offer a thought about the possible dynamics of the debate to come.

The unfortunate reality is that for many students on campus, the decision of who to vote for is as simple as: “I like that guy.” Most people don’t think about the Council much, the Crimson’s coverage is inconsistent and fairly superficial (with the exception of this great piece from FM), and the fall races (in which most candidates run unopposed and those who don’t rarely debate) offer little in the way of political intrigue or intelligent discourse. Even the last two Presidential elections have only offered a nominal break from this simplified thinking. To be mildly superficial and unfair to the candidates involved, the last two years have offered a fairly typical dynamic of insider v. outsider, the council heir who had “put in the hours” and taken a typical route vs. the hip guy with a winning smile whose experience with the Council was minimal. As a result, the campaigns were less about vision and priorities and more about competence, experience, and a general referendum on many students’ frustration with the Council. This race, however, has the potential to break us out of that insider/outsider rut and move the campaign into a more complicated conversation. (more in expanded post)

We have three tickets. Two of them (Haddock/Riley and Voith/Gadgil) come with fairly robust leadership and council experience, but neither of which has taken a typical path toward the Council presidency and neither of which can claim the support of the Council as an institution. In addition to that, you have the third ticket about which little is known to, as the Crimson puts it, those of us who are “council watchers.” While competence and experience is always a factor, both major tickets can claim extensive experience with working in University Hall, writing legislation and working with committees, but neither can claim the same amount as Glazer, Mahan or Rohit. Both the Voith/Gadgil ticket and the Haddock/Riley ticket cross the threshold of competence and experience, and neither can logically run a campaign against the “council status quo” that plays on some student’s anti-Council sentiment. As a result, unless the Grimeland/Hadfield ticket can cross the competence threshold or organize enough people to make some noise, the conversation won’t be about who knows what their doing but about what exactly they want to do.

Add to that the fact that the role of the Council on campus is up for grabs as it hasn’t been in a while. The Council has moved fairly linearly in the last three years, building an increasingly strong relationship with the administration, developing an increasingly efficient grant process, and continually struggling with social planning and concerts. In the last year though, each of those things has reached a climax, as SAC (the advocacy committee) and FiCom (the grant-giving committee) are stronger than ever and CLC (the social planning committee) and the HCC (the Concert Commission) struggle more than ever. The current administration (my roomie Glazer and friend Capp) are trying to reform the structure to address this, but regardless of what happens many questions will remain. In addition, there have been controversies over where the Council should draw a boundary in terms of the political content of its advocacy that have caused many of us to ask whether or not the council has or should have a clear line delineating what it does and does not involve itself in.

When taken together- two apparently competent council tickets and a looming question that goes to the very heart of what the Council does- the race should be an interesting one and the candidates owe the campus a good debate on the big questions at hand. I’m sure ticky tacky politicking and non-issues like who bought what candidate’s website and who said what about someone’s vote will still be discussed, but let’s hope we also go to this deeper level of discussion. Of course, with things like these a lot can change fairly quickly. If the campaign is substanceless, all of this analysis goes out the window outside of the political community and mobilization matters more than anything. If Grimeland/Hadfield get traction it’s hard to know what would happen. And heck, maybe one of the two primary tickets will go in a direction completely unexpected, or maybe they’ll choose to just agree on everything and fight it out by way of internal politics and mobilization rather than issues. Only time will tell…

I’ll be offering my thoughts/analysis throughout the next week and a half, and I’m sure other writers here will do the same. We would, of course, love you to get involved as well, so don’t be scared off by non-anonymous posting! As always, share your wisdom, correct my spelling/syntax/grammar/facts, etc.

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NOTE: Please remember CC’s policy on UC Campaign-related comments. Also, remember that publishing a comment on CC, like publishing something in the Crimson, is considered campaigning. If you are affiliated with one of the campaigns or working on their behalf, campaigning is illegal until midnight Monday morning.

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