Student government elections: Cut the idealism

This year’s contest for student body president (SBP) has yielded two tickets taking nearly opposite approaches, but these candidates do have one thing in common: banking on either too many or too few initiatives, both suffer from perilously idealistic campaigns.

Jared Itkowitz and Pooja Godbole (CMUnity) have signs that simply read “A Plan.” They’ve stuck with the numbers theme from Sean Weinstock and Adi Jain’s CMU 5, but have upgraded their platform to seven planks, under which there is a detailed list of 28 “first steps.” This alone merits a point of caution. The seven separate initiatives are substantive enough that they each merit a task force of dedicated students and, even then, the goals they list would be difficult to realize in a single year.

Of course the candidates don’t want to limit themselves, but to have such a comprehensive plan as a “jumping off” point is a little too adventurous. The duo has proven that they’re hard workers and excellent planners, but if they hope to get work done on all points of their platform, they’ll have to sacrifice depth for breadth, if only because there are not enough hours in the day. They should look to Sean Weinstock, who only accomplished some of his five goals, but has still been successful as SBP.

CMUnity’s opponents, Dorian Adeyemi and Alex Short, suffer from the opposite affliction. Their biggest initiative is to leave the initiatives to students. They hope that through e-mail, forums, and other types of exposure, students will bring ideas to them. But this campus is known for its apathy. Asking the student body to come up with ideas doesn’t make as much sense as giving them clear opportunities to participate in Carnegie Mellon student life.

The boldface reality is that very few of Carnegie Mellon’s too-busy students are going to bring forth initiatives during the year. The lack of a structured plan will end in stagnation, not because the candidates are unqualified for the job, but because they’ll either be overwhelmed with unplanned initiatives to take on, or more likely, underwhelmed and unsure where to expend their energies. The whole reason we want an SBP and SBVP is that regular students don’t know how things work — we don’t know which of our suggestions are realistic or feasible.

It is common knowledge that student body presidents, like real presidents, generally do not follow through with all of their campaign promises. Still, platforms (and past experiences) are the only indicators we have of what our leaders want to devote themselves to, so it is important that they be realistic about what is possible.