Demanding more from the candidates

While you were studying, enjoying “Dollar Beer Night” or sleeping soundly last night, they were strategically planning how to attract students’ attention on the West Mall with swag and engaging activities. Student Government candidates, many of whom have held campaign meetings since last fall, can finally begin campaigning officially today.

The candidates have two weeks to campaign before elections Feb. 29 and March 1. “Affordability,” “transparency” and “safety” are just a few of the many buzzwords that have served as pillars of candidates’ platforms in years past.

Many candidates promise to “empower students” so their voices can be heard in administrative and other important University decisions. But rarely do they explain how they plan to do so.

Others guarantee “accountability,” a vague value that we hope any candidate would promote if elected. Student leaders are elected to represent students, and accountability is inherent to a successful term. Essentially, accountability should be more than an empty promise made during a campaign; it should be demanded from all prospective student leaders.

And, of course, SG presidential races often include a candidate who runs as an “outsider” — that is, one who has not been groomed by SG prior to running. He or she usually claims to be a “normal” student who will represent others like him or her across campus. The problem? “Normal” students rarely understand the complexities of SG and the intricacies of changing University policy. These students typically make unrealistic promises — such as to decrease tuition — that sound great but are usually impossible to fulfill if not solely because of the nature and role of SG president. The position is not all-powerful.

Political posturing and bland repetition of the same tired tropes drive students away from a process that often looks like little more than a trial run for the next round of high-flying but ultimately disappointing politicians of tomorrow. “Reaching out” to students to “get them more involved in SG” will continue to be a futile exercise so long as this perception of student leaders persists, as it often turns genuine interest into bitter disenchantment.

This year, we ask students to demand more from the candidates. When you hear candidates pledging to provide “access,” “outreach” and “representation,” ask them how and why before taking their papers and pledging your vote.

In an effort to enhance the rigor of the election process, The Daily Texan Editorial Board has invited each executive alliance team seeking office to interview. We will post each interview online next week and feature notable quotes from the interviews on the opinion page.

In addition, the editorial board will moderate the Student Government executive alliance candidate debate at 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of the Student Activity Center. If you have questions you would like us to ask the candidates, please send them to [email protected] or tweet them to us @DTeditorial with the hashtag “SGdebate.”