While walking around campus these past few days, you may have seen posters and campaign material in the form of memes characterizing the typical University student’s trials and tribulations. We’re told that these delightful little placards and posters advertising our platform have led to a lot of people referring to us as the “Meme Candidates” — a favorable enough moniker, considering we had a lot of fun crafting our campaign and enjoy the appreciation our wordplay has garnered. Now that we’ve got you talking, we’d like to give you a little insight into the painstaking process that went into preparing our platform.
We’re well aware of the current apathy toward student government that pervades the University. Disenchantment with the status quo is what led us to run as independent candidates. We strongly believe that existing outside the sphere of the prevailing political machinery helps us be more perceptive of what students really want and need. The simple fact is that this is a democracy, not a dictatorship, which is why we talked at length with hundreds of students who essentially crafted, created and validated our platform.
At a school the size of ours, capturing the diversity of the student body in terms of opinions and grievances is absolutely crucial. We took great care to engage with students of all majors, classes and walks of life at academic and residential locations ranging from the UGLi to Angell Hall, from the Business School to the School of Social Work, from Mason Hall to the very depths of North Campus. We were careful to truly engage with you in the process, because we sincerely believe that two high-quality hours spent talking with one student is far better than two hours spent handing out fliers to 1,000 students. A number of you can attest to this, especially those who were initially annoyed at our infringing on your time, but with whom we ended up having great and productive conversations. Having compiled quite a comprehensive list of problems and ideas from students in addition to our own ideas, we set about researching them from a feasibility standpoint by talking to administrators and benchmarking against what other universities have in place. Then we went back to the students and closed the feedback loop by getting their approval on the remaining initiatives. Those initiatives that were met with significant favor were incorporated into our platform.
We aren’t stopping here. The valuable insights we’ve gained are currently being supplemented by talking to student athletes, student organization leaders — including those with as few as five members — and even local business owners, all integral stakeholders in every student’s campus life. Two main points have occurred to us during this process: the first being that University students are an absolute treat to converse with. Seriously, give yourself a pat on the back, because we truly enjoyed your inspiring company. Secondly, our belief that this election is as much about the why of student government as it is about the what and how.
As independents, we promise to return to the true why of CSG by taking it back to the students and catering to their comforts and dreams, and we’re confident that this shows in everything we’ve done so far and everything we intend to do.
Our aim has been to take student activism from the dusty realms of catchphrases and buzzwords and put it firmly front and center by harnessing the student voice through the actionable initiatives championed by you and outlined in our platform. This is by no means a finished endeavor — we welcome any further questions, comments and suggestions on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ManishAndOmar. And while we sincerely appreciate the attention and praise our meme posters and social media presence have garnered, in all seriousness, your support and engagement with our platform are what truly mean the world to us.
Manish Parikh and Omar Hashwi are independent candidates running for the positions of president and vice-president of the Central Student Government.