With the new round of elections for the AAS executive board (E-board) occurring this week, candidates will have an opportunity to run, or run again, for the coveted E-board positions on the Association of Amherst Students (AAS). The new election was in response to the Judiciary Council’s (JC) recent decision regarding the Unity Ticket and campaign funding violations, the details of which can be found in their recent email to the student body. Despite these recent developments, the fact that three of the five positions were uncontested shows a larger problem within our student body. It is important for the democratic process and for concerned voters to have multiple candidates vying for these important positions. To increase the diversity of thought within our student government, more students should run for AAS positions, especially executive board positions.
The last executive board elections conducted two weeks ago had a lackluster turnout on the parts of candidates. The positions for secretary, treasurer and the JC chair were uncontested, demonstrating a lack of interest on the part of the student body. The low candidate turnout, however, does not negate the fact that all of the AAS executive board positions are important, valuable and worth fighting for. The secretary oversees the communications of the AAS as well as the AAS vans and election proceedings. The treasurer maintains the AAS’ $1.2 million budget and works to allocate that budget to the entire student body. Lastly, the JC chair works to maintain the integrity of the JC and presides over important JC hearings such as the recent controversial ACR decision and the decision regarding the Unity Ticket.
This problem is not isolated to the AAS board elections. The Senate and the Judiciary Council have fallen victim to the student body’s apathy. The recent JC election last semester had three at-large candidates running for four positions. Not only was there no competition for these seats, there were not enough candidates to even fill the entire council. Furthermore, upperclassmen participation in Senate elections has been so abysmal that no more than a few Senators have been elected from purely write-in votes.
When a candidate runs for a position, competition is necessary for the candidate to develop their points of view, deliver their arguments to the student body and work for a position that has so much power. Candidates have an incentive to develop ambitious platforms that will benefit the student body. This past term, the AAS has worked to support a rigorous renewable energy plan, developed a free printing initiative for students and hosted events like a talent show to increase student engagement. Regardless of these great initiatives, the issue of AAS apathy on the part of the student body remains a problem.
Elections without competition tend to consist of candidates with lackluster platforms and empty promises that they are not incentivized to uphold. What motivation does a candidate have to be a qualified leader and voice for their peers when they are not held accountable at the ballot box? Candidates can make all of the promises they want, but if they are not scrutinized for their platforms, then there is no guarantee that their promises can or will be fulfilled.
Take the recent board election, for example, in which most of the candidates vowed to increase the transparency of the AAS. While the candidates supported the idea of AAS transparency, not one candidate provided a concrete plan that voters needed. Most of the candidates provided vague details about their plans and promises to increase AAS transparency. Had there been more competition, candidates would be encouraged to develop plans to differentiate themselves from their competition.
Many students feel as though the AAS is an isolated body on campus, in that members of student government often run for positions within student government, which discourages non-AAS members from running in elections. While this concern does have merit, this mindset ultimately contributes to the AAS apathy that seems to be rampant within the student body. How can we break this cycle of self-selection within the AAS if members of the student body at large don’t even run in the first place? To fix the problems of AAS apathy, students should engage more with the AAS, whether through running, voting or simply showing up to AAS meetings to voice their concerns.
Unsigned editorials represent the Editorial Board (assenting: 9; dissenting: 0; abstaining: 5)