The Case of the Missing Candidates

Robert Nanni (1L)

On Tuesday, March 21, we all received an email from our beloved Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Aidan Campbell with the SLS candidates’ statements. As someone who is running for 2L StAG Representative, I was both excited and nervous to receive this email. A small part of me wanted my role to be acclaimed, to relieve the stress of campaigning as exams approach, but the rest of me wanted it to be contested. Give me struggle, give me drama, give me democracy!

As soon as I saw the email, I quickly scrolled down the list to the heading “2L StAG,” where I saw three candidates’ names, one of whom is acclaimed for VP StAG, subject to a vote of confidence. You’d think I’d be relieved, but instead I felt disappointed. Fellow students congratulated me, but this wasn’t a deserved win. This was a position I did not feel I had earned.

The only contested positions are President and VP Social Affairs, whereas VP StAG is acclaimed subject to a vote of confidence and each year representative is acclaimed. Come Fall, the incoming CRO will have to hold by-elections for two more 3L Social Reps, one more 2L Social Rep, and two more StAG Reps. I can’t pinpoint the source of the apparent election apathy, so I ask you: Where are all the candidates?

Is it the time of year? Perhaps with exams and final papers drawing near, students were not looking to add yet another stressor to their plates. In the event that someone was to enter a contested election but didn’t have time to campaign, they might feel overwhelmed.

Is it the nature of elections? They tend to be a popularity contest, unfortunately. You vote for the name you recognize, the student with whom you’ve spoken, the one who posts a lot in Facebook groups. The nature of an election tends to be less about who has the best platform points (because what someone says they’ll do and what they actually do aren’t always aligned) and more about who you want in the role.

Is it some sort of an accessibility issue? Does the SLS come off as this mysterious body with which students think they can’t get involved unless they started as a 1L Rep? The only fresh faces we saw in this election cycle were three new 3L StAG Reps (kudos to you for running!) who perhaps have watched SLS from the outside and now want to contribute on a more hands-on level. But to them I ask, where have you been? By waiting until your last year of law school to join student government, you miss out on helping enact direct change to your experience here.

Moving forward, I want to informally task next year’s CRO with finding the root of this issue and working to remedy it. This means holding elections earlier and working with the SLS to promote involvement. Some students with whom I spoke feared running and losing, thereby having wasted their time. In my opinion, this is not the right way to view elections. This is a time to contribute your ideas, to challenge the status quo, and to hold the SLS accountable while defying stagnation. Ultimately, students will only be interested in voting if they have someone for whom they can vote. Whatever changes are made next year, they need to be impassioning students to run and, by extension, to vote.