Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Little Bit of Democracy

I know that university student council elections are often dismissed as popularity contests, but I think that might be a bit more under control on a campus as large as Western's. But how important are these elections and does it matter who wins? (Image: USC (Screenshot)) I would like to think that these elections do carry some weight and that the candidates have real differences that matter, but I can't help but be a bit skeptical. The candidates on both the campus-wide council and the faculty-council all seemed competent, but it's hard to judge the platform they aim to execute on their word alone.

Unlike most other elections, student council elections typically are based on how the candidates present themselves now. Other elections would include an element of notable experience that could be verified and examined. Another challenge in student politics is the ambiguity of candidate platforms. While they all put effort into defining their vision, the visions are all very similar.

That said, the ambiguity of a platform is beneficial as there are no "parties" to draw battle lines that hinder compromises on plans. Without battle lines set in stone, the elections are theoretically more democratic than others. In my eyes, there are flaws – such as dis-interested students lowering participation – but the flaws in this system are no different than those in other elections.

I would also argue that these elections offer greater democracy on a continuous basis by including votes on issues. During this year's elections, the ballot had two initiatives to vote yes or no on. These were both very important choices, and I believe that it is great that students are given the chance to vote on issues, not just for a candidate.

Even if you don't know where the candidate you vote for stands on each issue, you get a chance to throw your voice into the discussion. I am eager to see the results of the election, and hope that I made the right choices based on the information I had. Then again, it may be a while before we know that.