If you’re reading this, you probably (statistically and realistically speaking) don’t care about the student body president election tomorrow. You might not know what the student body president does. You might recall being mauled by signature-seeking campaigners in the Pit at some point last week and be even more inclined to not vote out of pure annoyance.
Within editorial board, student government remains a topic of heated debate. We argue about the role of student government, the obligations of the student body president and if writing about the institution is even worth our time.
In the end, we have decided this: student government has never been made up of the campus revolutionaries. Student government will never bring down Silent Sam. But student government is made up of students who put in work to affect change behind the scenes.
In light of the student body president election tomorrow, we must consider a realistic portrait of their duties and obligations to students. Just like romantic relationships, by truly understanding what we can expect, we can best select someone to get the job done.
The role of the student body president is two-pronged. First, the student body president is someone who will effectively work with a team to advocate for nitty-gritty educational policies to benefit students. They will be OK with the fact that they’ll get very little credit for long nights and countless hours spent in meetings providing a “student voice.” In aggregate, their presence will have a minimal effect on the direction of policies on campus.
Occasionally, the student body president’s team will face dramatic moments where they will have a significant effect on the direction of the University. These critical moments indicate the true effectiveness of the student body president and their team — do they have a true read of campus and its inner workings? Can they quickly and effectively respond?
In past years, these moments have included student government’s involvement in the business school fee, contextualized transcripts, active-learning, sexual assault policy and the separation of the undergraduate and graduate student governments.
Secondly, we often overlook the fact that the student body president is a symbol. The person who wins the election indicates who our campus chooses to hold up as trustworthy and who we expect to advocate for our needs. This is an important part of considering who gets your vote.
Regardless of student government’s “effectiveness,” the student body president is often the lone student voice in a sea of university bureaucrats. They represent us. And candidates’ personal beliefs, identities and experiences are pertinent to the decisions they make once elected to office.