The Associated Students of UCR (ASUCR) elections are coming up in the first week of spring quarter, meaning that there will soon be campaigns for the positions available on the students’ representative body. The campaign season also means that students are about to be exposed to the best and worst of what an electoral campaign can offer.
Not only do the participants for this year have an opportunity to show our campus what they are prepared to do to make UCR’s future better, but they show us what kind of people the candidates are in the interviews, debates and everything in between. Coming off the heels of one of the most participated-in ASUCR elections in the 2013-14 school year, UCR needs to ask itself how the spirit of these elections can be held up as a symbol of pride for the school.
Though popular in its turnout, the unprofessional campaigning, mudslinging and general misconduct during last year’s campaign surely reflect poorly on a campus so focused on harboring increased school spirit. In order to improve, however, these issues with last year’s elections must be addressed, while also continuing what went well with the last elections, figuring out what made them one of the greatest-turnout campaigns that have gone on for ASUCR.
As has already been addressed, unprofessional campaigning was the primary problem in the last election cycle. Candidates for office relied heavily upon the use of popular Internet memes to garner votes. While on the surface this may have seemed like an inventive and clever way to appeal to voters’ collective sense of humor, that was all it did.
Meme campaigns didn’t serve to express a party’s goals, or that of their candidates. Instead, the attempt at wide Internet appeal only managed to obfuscate what the parties stood for and what platforms they wished to bring to ASUCR. This isn’t to say that the elections should be without levity, but the primary focus of every campaign should always be to rally individuals behind solid stances on issues concerning UCR, and appealing to our redditing habits only manages to make a mockery of that.
In this same vein, over-saturation and over-expenditure on campaign materials led to posters and other promotional materials proliferating around the school, making every walk to class look like an advertisement for the parties in ASUCR’s elections. While it is good to see that the candidates are so eager to participate in making UCR a better environment for students, the massive amounts of party propaganda only became a source of controversy, as parties allegedly began to vandalize or otherwise tear down their opponents’ materials.
Preventing this simply comes down to creating a higher standard for our candidates, and ourselves as educated voters. Candidates need to realize that sometimes, saying more with less can show a level of resourcefulness that should be encouraged with student politics. Using less posters with more concentrated information for the viewer would leave little doubt in the voters’ minds as to whether the person to whom the material belongs is the right person for the job.
A expense ceiling could also be useful to this end. ASUCR candidates are required to receive approval for their campaign purchases, but limiting these expenditures would doubtless be a step in leveling the politicking playing field. On top of this, more stringent limitations as to where campaign materials can be exhibited would also allow for a more amicable race, as each contender would only be given an allotted space. This would discourage vandalism, if only because the campaign arena is perfectly balanced.
Though this may seem like an arbitrary step when the election committee (as an all-volunteer committee) has nowhere near the manpower to enforce the expenditure ceiling and the limited posting space, it is at this point that we as students of UCR must hold ourselves to a higher standard, as well as the candidates who wish to represent us. For a fair election to occur, we must be vigilant and understand that anybody willing to break these rules and cut these corners isn’t the person we want in charge of the student initiatives to enact change at the UC.
All that remains to be fixed once these few changes are implemented is increasing transparency during the drives for election. Parties and candidates in the last election rallied behind slogans and catchphrases, blurring the politics under which they ran. While this upcoming election doesn’t have multiple parties competing against each other, it is still important that candidates represent themselves in such a way that they exist beyond their platitudes. However, like the other solutions, this responsibility falls on both the candidate vying for office, and the student body to enforce.
As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It is time for UCR to take that advice. We are the future movers and shakers of the world, so let us set a precedent in the here and now to see changes in the way that the country handles politics, holding not only our representatives to higher standards, but ourselves as voters too.