Passion, dedication underlie concerns about 2016 campus-wide election

Brian Wilkey

Disqualifications. Appeals. Rules and violations. In several high-profile races this year, we tested the inner workings of campus-wide elections and legislative student organizations.

As a participant in these complaints and appeals and the veteran of two previous elections, I saw emotions run high. I have felt firsthand the anxiety about results and confusion about the ESB hearings and appeals. Normally, when two large organizations like SG and GSA undergo such trials and tribulations, it may be easy to lay the blame on the process and feel concerned about what went wrong. As the (outgoing) president of the GSA, I certainly spent more hours than I would have liked poring over our governing documents, calling my vice president and emailing the ever-dedicated staff in the Dean of Students office. 

For the GSA election, the issue was incredibly personal to me for several reasons. First, I brought the complaint that started the whole process.  That made me intimately aware of the path we took. Then, once an appeal was filed, the organization was faced with an untested process — one created in the reformation of governing documents over which I presided.

Now, when procedural problems confuse you, you want to ask, “Who could possibly think this is the right way to handle this?” That question really cuts to the quick when you know the answer is … “me.” So I was knee-deep in proceedings, which I helped to create, that had some confused and others upset. This intimate involvement, though, helped me to leave these events with hope.

Despite the confusion, the frustration, the emotion and the anxiety, everyone fought through to the end of the process. Learning as we went, we did it because we cared about the future of the GSA, due process and equity.

Moreover, every hearing and meeting was packed with people who cared. The process may not have been smooth, but it provided a path and our dedication got us through.

This is why I am not upset the GSA had its process tested. We can look at it as revealing weaknesses in our electoral code (both campus-wide and GSA-specific), or we can see it as I do: a demonstration of the passion and dedication of UT-Austin students to an effective and forward-thinking organization. 

My term ends on April 11 at noon. It has been two years of ups and down, victories and setbacks. As any leader might, I worried about to whom I leave this organization, and with the concerns in the election, I imagine others might worry as well. I just spent a week, though, in the presence of some of the most passionate, dedicated students. So to those who are focusing on the confusion in the election code and the problems associated with campus politics, take heart. I know just the people who can fix these problems (no pressure, folks).

Wilkey is a human development and family sciences graduate student from Vandalia, Ohio. He is the president of the Graduate Student Assembly.