The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Politicians or phonies?

 Politicians or phonies?
By Ada Esedebe, [email protected]
Politicians or phonies?

Politicians or phonies? (By Ada Esedebe, [email protected])

If you had no idea that Student Senate elections are today, just look at the barrage of stake signs with random faces and catchy slogans that immerse our campus lawns. If those didn’t clue you in, look no further than the political hopefuls who give presentations to various student organizations, put editorials in the paper and make speeches in Hughes-Trigg. Despite their attempts to garner support and votes from their constituents, most students don’t know who they are electing to represent them on the Student Senate.

It’s no surprise that there are few that care to run for these offices. It’s even less of a surprise that fewer people care who run for these offices. So I want to give Student Senators and all those who work with them credit because it is not an easy job. Believe me, I’ve been there. I was on First-Year Class Council, served on the Diversity Committee and worked tirelessly as the African American senator to promote awareness about the multicultural communities.

I’ve worked with the best of them — from Jason Shyung, Drew Washington, Matt Houston, Michelle Wigianto, Asad Rahman and Liz Healy to Jared Dovers, Lyndsey Hummert, Mitch London, Gabe Travers and Joseph Grinnell. If you don’t know who these people are, you need to because they are a few of the people that make our student voices heard to the administration and make our campus run.

Being a senator was a fulfilling job for me but what occurred on Monday night at the Association of Black Students meeting made me ashamed to have even called myself a senator. At the meeting, four candidates came to market themselves (ideas, goals, etc.) in hopes of gaining our support (i.e. votes) in the elections. Each candidate was given time to speak, students waited to hear what each had to say, and then follow up questions were taken from audience members.

What occurred was not an insightful presentation, but rather bland, cookie-cutter presentations of ambiguous, overused concepts and the candidates’ attempted solutions for these generalizations. I asked simplistic but nevertheless fundamental questions as to why the African American community should vote for each candidate. I asked, “When was the last time you attended a multicultural event?” “Can you tell me specific issues that the African American community faces?” “How would the African American community benefit from voting for you?” “What are your plans for increasing unity among the various multicultural communities?” After watching the candidates squirm, use an onslaught of “ums” and “aahs” and become extremely uncomfortable under the spotlight, it was evident that a vast abyss existed between not just the senators and the student body, but also between multicultural communities and those proposing to represent them in Senate. (Young Conservatives of Texas feel free to jump in now).

I was unimpressed to say the least. My concluding statement was as follows: “So, you want us to vote for you, but you don’t know anything about our community?” There was silence and then a pathetic unrelated response to the question before the candidate was excused from the floor.

I was frustrated and angry that candidates for student body offices would not take the time to learn about different communities on campus before asking for their votes. It was disrespectful to assume that you would “win our votes” with polished looks and catchy slogans without knowing the first thing about the problems that our community faces. Only one candidate out of the four knew specific problems, issues and concerns plaguing the multicultural communities on campus.

And to me, that was a bad sign of things to come. I remembered the apathy and disinterest that ravaged the majority of senators last year. Incumbent President Liz Healy would have to give incentives before senators would even do their office hours or hour for the week. Senators would not go to meet with constituents or attend events sponsored by various organizations. The most appalling of these behaviors was the lack of active participation in writing legislation. How a senator goes an entire school year without writing or co-authoring vital pieces of legislation with the potential to change lives on campus bewilders me.

If you decide to run for a Student Senate position, then you must know all the requirements to fulfill your duty. Remember, you chose to run; therefore, you are responsible to not only to your constituents but the entire student body.

For those currently running or who are interested in running for the future, here are a few suggestions:

1. First and foremost, know your constituents.

Why run if you don’t even know who you will represent on Senate?

2. Know the relevant issues/problems in the various communities on campus.

This means, don’t be clueless! Don’t come with a rehearsed speech that glosses over specific issues (use of racial slurs, lack of diversity among professors) and turn them into generalizations (racism, diversity).

3. No cookie-cutter presentations.

This means that the same presentation you just gave at the fraternity and sorority houses will not relate to the needs and concerns of our multicultural communities

4. Don’t be a stranger: Come to the Department of Multicultural Student Affairs and learn:

How can you preach diversity, integration and campus unity when you yourself don’t practice it? How can you encourage other senators to go to multicultural events when you show up for five minutes?

The DMSA is on the third floor of Hughes-Trigg right before the Student Activities Center. The doors are always open because this office is open to everyone — that means white people as well.

5. Talk to JJ, Fernando and Karen about ways to get involved.

These three wonderful people are the glue that keeps all the multicultural communities on campus together. If you need to know how to get involved, they have ample resources and opportunities for you.

6. Last but most importantly, before you think of running for office ask yourself if you are going to keep the promises you made about campus safety, diversity and financial aid or whether you were just saying those things to get votes.

I urge political candidates running for office to first and foremost know the reason why they are running. You are leaders and you must not fail to realize the power and influence you have throughout the SMU community.

I encourage all students to seek out their senators at the SAC. Ask them insightful and analytical questions that will make them think. Go to Senate meetings on Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m., and hold senators accountable to the promises they made during their campaigns. And lastly, get involved! It does no good to complain if you are not making change occur.

With that said, I believe that there are various issues on campus that need to be addressed by all, but our leaders on campus have more of a responsibility to do what the title says — lead!

If at the end of your term, a person asks you what you did this year and you have nothing to say — know that you did not fulfill your commitment to yourself or your constituents.

Ada Esedebe is a junior political science and English major. She may be contacted at [email protected].

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