Getting Stoked for SGA

Victoria Cubera

I’ve never had much interest in student government before coming to Colgate. I did not run for a position as a dorm representative or try for a Senator-At-Large position. It’s not that I’m apathetic to campus issues; I just find involvement with the campus newspaper sufficient to voice my concerns and interests, and exercising my right to free speech is more important than complying with a particular view of what is newsworthy or what “should” be printed in order to connect the campus to theoretical higher ideals. For me, it’s enough to use a right that is protected by the United States Constitution in the First Amendment.

Another constitution recently caught my attention: the newly passed Student Government Association Constitution. It made Maroon-News headlines, and triggered an interest in the campus political atmosphere with the controversy surrounding it, and indeed, reactions to the new SGA constitution have served as platform topics for most of the candidates running for next year’s SGA presidency. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as one candidate co-authored the document, and the others needed to respond to the changes it will enact in next year’s SGA operation. The abolishment of automatic house representation for the various dorms and Greek residences on campus has been a hot topic during the campaign process this semester.

The campaign process seems to have taken over not only Facebook, but also our campus. Signs and posters plastered on dorm walls, inside and outside Frank Dining Hall and the Coop call attention to their candidate of choice. I’ve had friends tell me they’re voting for Juniors Eileen Kelly and Malik Wright simply because of the excellent self-advertising they’ve done. Personally, I’ve been impressed by the level of accessibility displayed by some of the candidates. I met Junior Hallie Dietsch for the first time walking around the Coop introducing herself and giving a basic platform run-down. Dietsch later visited my residence hall, and I had the opportunity to speak with her again. Junior Dima Tkachev also paid a visit to my hall and stopped to talk about his campaign. These two candidates faced the daunting publicizing process alone, which is no small task, as both their running mates are currently studying off the Colgate campus.

The other two tickets did have both partners on campus. Wright and Kelly never stopped by my dorm room, but I did get to see the recent production of Ay Hombres!, in which Kelly acted and used as a small publicity stunt. And Sobelman stopped by the Maroon-Newsz production office last Wednesday to talk to the staff about his campaign, which later led to my asking about some invalid logic on his Facebook group involving the Colgate’s campus being ranked among the most beautiful in the country and its relation to the fitness of Colgate’s students, which was later changed. Sobelman and I kept running into each other though, and has probably been the candidate I’ve seen most around campus.

Some of the campaign process has been slightly questionable. Posters prominently proclaiming “SEX” in white text on a black background urge viewers in much smaller print at the bottom of the page to “vote Eileen and Malik”.

Observers at the Presidential debate on Monday night got to hear details about all four tickets, from issues, qualifications, the feasibility of their campaigns, Rob Sobelman’s involvement in the attempted impeachment of a former SGA Vice President, and Tkachev’s brush with Colgate law when he decided to go swimming with the swans in Taylor Lake, all while the candidates delivered lightly-veiled insults and explicit criticisms to each other. Passionate responses and quick, sometimes cutting, rebuttals occasionally seemed like personal attacks. During the period of the debate in which candidates could question each other, I actually wondered if the other three tickets had conspired together to rally against Rob Sobelman and Jenny Dorland. All four parties were granted three questions. Dorland and Sobelman posed one question to each other competing candidate. Dietsch used all three on Dorland and Sobelman. Kelly and Wright used all three on Dorland and Sobelman. Tkachev used two on Dorland and Sobelman and addressed his last question to all three parties. It was moderately ridiculous, but maybe overall helpful for Sobelman and Dorland’s campaign. I don’t think any other group had a better opportunity to explicate their views than Rob and Jenny.

The audience in the Coop was not a passive one either. The candidates were asked if they planned to stand up to the administration. One questioner made it a special point to address solely the three tickets that had interrogated Sobelman and Dorland, highlighting how they had been targeted earlier. And first-year Lizzie Ellis caused a stir by expressing frustration with the political jargon and careful phrasing being used, when she bluntly asked the candidates what they do and why she should care. I don’t think I’m the only person whose awareness of Student Government has increased in explicit relation to this election, which makes me think that maybe SGA is already beginning to undergo some much-needed changes.

By the time this issue of the Maroon-News is available, the SGA presidential elections will be all but over. It will be a matter of waiting for the official vote tallies to come in, for reductions for campaigning violations to be taken out, and for a victor to emerge. Of course, given that there are four tickets and, as was brought up in the debate, student voting turn-outs do not have a remarkable history of being overly substantial, a tie is entirely possible, which would lead to a run-off and another vote. I wouldn’t mind. A month ago, the SGA didn’t mean anything to me, a claim I can no longer make. Though my love affair with campus politics is just beginning, I’ll be just as curious as the candidates to see who wins the election and takes control of the SGA. I can only hope it will be in safe hands.