The Crimson has now run four stories on the UC race in the last two and a half weeks. Most students, at this point, will know only what they’ve read in the Crimson, maybe they’ll have spent a few minutes at each of the websites. But, for most, the Crimson will be the only non-campaign source of information they will get throughout this week and a half journey. For those of us who follow what’s actually going on, the gap between the news coverage and the political reality is wide enough to drive a Buick through. The fact that student opinion forms around this alternative reality of out of context quotations that lack analysis and background, ticky tack campaign violations and non-controversies, and unquestioned declarations of resume points is not reassuring for those of us who believe in some sort of student democracy.
Later in the post, I’ll note a few things that it hasn’t picked up on, first, let’s look at what it has. With 100% retention, then, what would the informed voter know at this point?(things we do know, and things we should know in expanded post)
From story 1, they’ll learn that the Haddock/Riley and Voith/Gadgil tickets had formed, they’ll learn that some still think Connor Wilson might run (he tried), they’ll get a sentence or two on each of the individual’s UC history (Haddock worked on libraries, ran against Gadgil; Gadgil worked on CUE and the Women’s Center; Voith worked on the Afterparty and Yale Shuttles (ouch); Riley quit the council but worked on interhouse transfers and peer advising). Ok, so we have about two resume points each.
From story 2, they’ll learn of the Grimeland/Hadfield ticket (including Grimeland’s Norwegian Army service and Hadfield’s failure to get on the Council in the fall) and they’ll get about 2/3 of the story on the fact that some dumb ass on Voith’s campaign bough HaddockRiley.com, Haddock got up in arms, and Voith gave him the URL.
From story 3, they’ll learn a little about the normal UC news (CLC replacement tabled, South Asian Studies bill passed, etc.), and then find out that the first day of campaigning included a few possible violations that were a result of accidentally putting a poster on a Proctor board.
From story 4, ironically titled “Council Hopefulls Present Platform”, they’ll get to hear about prepared answers to six questions, fairly useless quips from each of the candidates, and some random out of context proposals from each of the tickets about funding alcohol-free parties, getting students access to coursepacks, and forming new committees to look into things.
So where does this leave us? A student, who cares enough to memorize each of the four news pieces they’ve read, will know: two or three bullet points about each candidate, some ticky tack news about websites and errant posters, and some random quotes about random positions only just barely related to student health.
What they don’t know is that there is one major question in this campaign that the two major tickets widely disagree on: the role of the Council in social planning. Voith/Gadgil believe that the UC should create a social programming board in place of one of the three committees (CLC) that is separate from the UC and coordinates with the administration. The Haddock/Riley ticket wants to “get the UC out of the social programming business” and leave it to the administration.
They don’t know that Haddock was unsure about this issue, proposed a referendum to “take this decision to the students,” and then scrapped his direct-democracy ideals and took a firm position that strangely lines up with the Crimson’s staff position and the opinion that his campaign manager forcefully expressed in the Indy over a month and a half ago. So much for direct democracy…
Do students know that all of the candidates voted for a bill on Monday night to not only create a standing committee to advocate for South Asian Studies, but also to automatically put unelected members of South Asian Association on the committee, and then promptly went to meet with the South Asian Association about getting endorsements for the election?
Do student know that a major part of the two main candidacies will be each ticket mobilizing their respective Final/Social Club: Voith is mobilizing the Phoenix, Gadgil the Seneca, and most likely Riley the Isis. I know this from talking to the candidates themselves and looking at the people in their facebook groups and in front of the Science Center.
Do students have any sense of what people think of these candidates other than what the candidates say about themselves?
Has the Crimson reported the very interesting news that the Council is fairly split, with about 14 members supporting Haddock and 9 supporting Voith?
(Alright, the rhetorical question format is lame. But I’m not rewriting all of that…)
These are all things an informed electorate should know. And, quick frankly, none of these things require anything other than a few phone calls, a little basic research, and the facebook to figure out. The Crimson, of course, will say that it is holding off on the meat of its coverage until after the debate, because that’s when students start to pay attention. But, without the necessary context for understanding any of this, its unclear to me how any student can begin to analyze the information that comes out of a debate, understand whether or not an accusation or claim is accurate and what motivates that candidate to make that claim. It’s also unclear to me that even debate coverage gets into any serious analysis of ideas or context that can inform a voter.
The problem is, the Crimson wants to send its good reporters, the people who believe in research and scoops, who want to understand context and motivations, to cover the Deans in University Hall, and that’s about it. In assigning talented and experienced reporters they ignore the fact that often the politics that matters most to people is the politics that they’re involved in: ethnic groups, political groups, service groups, student government. University Hall is important, but not all-important. Students need to have a framework for understanding their community, especially when they’re making decisions about its future. The Crimson isn’t giving it, which is why blogs like this and Team Zebra are popping up to offer analysis.
Please remember CC’s policy on anonymous comments related to the UC campaigns.