From threatening e-mails to controversial campaign advertisements, this year’s Central Student Government elections took a decidedly scandalous turn with students playing the one role they should’ve avoided — politicians. Last week, a campaign video posted by youMICH was removed after a number of students criticized the video as racially insensitive over social media. On Wednesday, an e-mail sent by the forUM party chair attacking momentUM presidential candidate Nick Swider bizarrely resulted in threats of University Election Commission suits if momentUM made the e-mail public. After voting ended, both executive candidates on the winning forUM ticket, LSA juniors Chris Osborn and Hayley Sakwa, have been disqualified because of suits that seemed soley intent on preventing them from taking office, pending an appeal. Unfortunately, this year’s scandals are far from the exception. Following the contentious elections, CSG must refocus on serving the student body and quit wasting time and money on petty political games.
During CSG elections, each party usually tracks the actions of other parties, looking for violations of UEC election code in order to file suits that are presided over by the Central Student Judiciary. Any candidate receiving five demerits during the election disqualifies himself or herself. On March 30, the UEC ruled in favor of a suit filed by youMICH, charging Osborn and Sakwa with eight demerits in total. The results of the UEC’s findings have prompted responses from several parties promising to take further action. While obeying election code is critical to ensure a fair election, the continued focus on voting politics is simply a distraction from representing University students.
Given the gravity of issues facing the University and the quick turnover of new CSG leadership — Osborn and Sakwa were slated to take office two weeks after securing the election — it’s time the candidates stop battling each other and instead focus on the consensus-building promised by multiple platforms. Instead of having parties take on the role of demerit investigation, such suits should be undertaken by an independent electoral committee, monitoring all parties to ensure fairness rather than political gains.
Scandals have become nearly standard in student government elections at the University. In 2012, an e-mail circulated accusing then-vice presidential candidate Omar Hashwi of homophobic and anti-Semitic behavior. After Hashwi and then-presidential candidate Manish Parikh won the election, a series of suits against them, similar to those faced by Osborn and Sakwa, delayed the results of the election.
By establishing an independent entity for enforcing the election code, CSG would allow parties and their supporters to focus on getting their message to the student body rather than overseeing each other. Moreover, any resulting suits couldn’t be construed as motivated by electoral loss.
According to its constitution, CSG was founded “to promote academic freedom and responsibility, foster fellowship and collaboration among the Students, and guarantee a public forum for Student expression.” Some of the parties’ conduct during this election indicates no concern with these goals. While CSG is often viewed as little more than a source for student organization funding, the student government may be the most powerful, unified voice students have, especially in administrative matters. In the face of University leadership, CSG must come across as a responsible, poised representation of students, but the election and resulting drama embarrass more than impress.