No more Castles!

Well, castles are awesome. But that doesn’t mean they should be funded by student fees; nor should paper or supplies for normal a-frames. Stud cong is taking up the issue of campaign finance and will making a lot of changes to Title VI (the relevant portion of the Student Code) next week. The most important change they could make would be to make student elections self-funded with no cap on spending.

Student elections were self-funded until Fall of 2002 when they became funded by student fee money. The two main arguments in favor of the current arrangement are seemingly convincing, however invalid: self-funding denies poor students the opportunity to run for office; and not having a cap would allow the wealthy students to “buy” the election.

I doubt self-funding would actually deny students the ability to run based on their socioeconomic status. And if a wealthy student wants to be a sad tool and “buy” a student body election, they deserve to have this as their life’s only victory. Somehow, this system worked fine up until 2002. And students can still fundraise to make up the difference which is where things get interesting, because a common argument I’ve heard against fundraising has been that students wouldn’t actually donate money to campaigns because they don’t care enough to do so.

Implicit within that argument, however, one is saying that since students don’t care enough about student government to voluntarily fund elections, student government should force them against their will to do so. Who’s democratic now?

At the end of the day, is anyone really convinced by a-frames or sheets of paper? No. Students are convinced by one-on-one interaction with the candidates and the arguments candidates make at any of the forums students attend. Also crucial is the DTH endorsement. So even if a student didn’t fundraise on parity with other campaigns, this would not impair their ability to win using any of the usual means candidates reach the students.

So complete, private funding with no cap would be ideal, but given the realities of the situation, the most likely scenario where student fee funding is cut would be to have a cap put in place on private money to be spent. Opponents would argue a cap is unenforceable, but the same argument could be made against the current cap. What stops campaigns from just not turning receipts of purchase in? Theoretically, unless someone turns a campaign in, candidates could spend way over $400 and the BOE would be none the wiser. The cap is flawed either way. But the BOE would still have the same punitive tools in its hands to punish campaigns that went over the cap when private money is used, even up to disqualifying a candidate for exceeding the amount.

Stud cong needs to do the right thing and actually return the choice to students as to which campaigns they would fund. Who knows, maybe campaigns would have so little money they won’t annoy us in the pit with fliers or cause us to trip over their silly a-frames. Wouldn’t that be nice…

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