Alex Redinger (2L)
It is very disappointing that the candidates for all three Students’ Law Society (SLS) Executive positions and all representative positions—both Student Affairs and Governance and Social—were acclaimed this year. Sarah Bittman, Katie Longo, and Christina Liao all gamely conducted campaigns for their executive positions, but running unopposed damages their legitimacy as elected representatives. It’s not their fault; they should be applauded for being willing to run. After all, if it is disappointing that they are running unopposed, imagine if no one ran at all.
Rather, the blame for them being acclaimed should be levied at us: specifically, law students who are returning next year but are not running for SLS positions. Sure, we all have other obligations, some of which probably preclude being an SLS representative. Nonetheless, I find it very difficult to believe that none of us are able to dedicate time to the SLS, especially since past elections have typically been competitive.
It would require more involved research than I am capable of mustering this close to exams in order to conclusively determine the causes for the nonparticipation this year, but based on my conversations with prospective candidates who ultimately declined to run, and some educated guesswork, here is my speculation as to why the SLS executive was acclaimed.
Burnout. Some would-be candidates I have spoken to, who have held SLS positions before, are tired of participating. After all, the SLS is exhausting work, with gains made for students usually being incremental at best. A corollary would be that since Bittman is not burned out—having not participated in the SLS before—she is willing to run. There is a tendency for third-year students to disengage with law school (giving rise to the term “3LOL”), so perhaps there is a particularly strong current of lethargy among current 2Ls.
Lack of prestige. The first-year students have otherwise been extremely keen to participate in law school extracurricular opportunities, so it is interesting that comparatively few are willing to run for SLS executive. A more optimistic explanation for this phenomenon is that they are so busy with all of their other extracurriculars, they don’t have time for the SLS; a more cynical explanation is that participating in the SLS is a lot of work for what might be perceived as a less prestigious extracurricular to put on a CV.
Those are the two explanations with the best circumstantial evidence I could muster. But of course both of them might be incorrect, and/or there may be many additional reasons for why there are only three candidates running for the three SLS Executive positions.
Diagnosing why so few people ran this year could also be a pointless task, as it cannot change the results of this election, and this may indeed be an outlier year for low participation in the SLS. However, I think it is a problem that is worth considering. Competition forces SLS candidates to clarify their platforms, and gives us a choice for the direction which we wish to see the organization take. This value is not something we should be willing to complacently relinquish.