Editorial | Worth the wait
Freshmen should wait unti January to run for Undergraduate Assembly positions
September 19, 2013, 9:11 pm · Updated September 20, 2013, 12:43 am·
If it were up to us, freshman Undergraduate Assembly elections wouldn’t end at 5 p.m. today — they’d end at 5 p.m. on, let’s say, any day in January.
We appreciate the enthusiasm that the freshmen who are running have displayed, and we’re sure a lot of them have cool ideas that would be great for the student body.
There’s the disclaimer. We’ve all been freshmen, and whether we were running for the UA or not, when we got to campus, many of us immediately had several epiphanies about how much better things could be with simple changes.
Thing is, as it turns out, “simple” changes aren’t always that simple or feasible. The notion that anyone can build an informed platform with three weeks’ experience is a bit farfetched.
If no one could run for UA without having been on campus for a semester, we’d get more nuanced, substantial pitches on what candidates planned on doing. Students’ initial expectations of what change we can effect tend to be overly optimistic when compared to what’s realistically possible.
It’s hard to create unique, detailed platforms when you haven’t taken your first midterm yet. It’s also difficult to sign off on a significant time commitment so early in the year. There might be plenty of students who would want to run in January who just don’t know enough to commit now. But given that people who join the UA often stay in it, there might not be open positions for students who are more comfortable running in January.
The interim period would also serve to narrow down the field of candidates from everyone who thinks UA sounds interesting and hasn’t filled up all their time yet to people who are singularly passionate about student government.
On the flip side, freshmen voters have just three weeks to determine who to vote for. How many upperclassmen who voted in freshmen UA elections can say they made an informed decision — or even made a concerted effort to make one?
Granted, no matter when a class-wide election is held, name recognition will likely play a major role. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — representatives should know a good number of people they represent. But there’s a difference between having met a lot of people on campus and handing out flyers or candy to everyone who walks into the Hill dining hall (it’s happened).
Pushing elections back would ensure that the outcome isn’t decided primarily on whose name was best-suited for a campaign slogan pun. Nothing against you, Abe, but we hope “Sex under the button, vote Abe Sutton” wasn’t the prevailing factor in his freshman campaign victory.
Furthermore, this notion isn’t without precedent. While some freshmen are trying to rush head-first into UA roles, Penn prohibits freshmen from participating in fall rush for Greek life. In many ways, it makes sense. Wouldn’t it be a little jarring to barely get to campus before deciding whether to commit to a tight-knit brother or sisterhood?
By similar logic, there can be an interim period between when people arrive on campus for the first time and when they can play a part in making decisions that affect the entire student body.
We can have a functioning UA for the first semester while freshmen get acclimated. And freshmen certainly should be able and encouraged to sit in on UA meetings to get accustomed to the atmosphere. It’s not about squashing the freshman voice, but making sure people representing the entire student body have some minimum degree of acumen.
Of course, all this begs the question, “What about class board — surely that poses the same problem, doesn’t it?” In a way, but it’s also sort of inevitable. There can’t really be a class board that no one’s allowed to run for.
There are certain things the class board has to do — most notably organizing Econ Scream — that no one else can do. And it’s also not a bad way to get started in leadership positions, without running for ones that represent the entire undergraduate population.
We can always use fresh ideas on how to make our daily lives better — and we’re sure many freshmen can come up with refined proposals to do just that. We’d just like to mix their enthusiasm and their unique view on things with just a touch of experience.