Travis Berry is the new and old ASF president. Surely, he did a good job last year and as he was elected by the majority, he deserves to serve another term, but the way he won this year’s election leaves an aftertaste.
For the first time in years, there actually was an election. More than one candidate applied for the position of the ASF president, as junior Wendy Schwartz also asked the students to vote her into the ASF office.
We at the Campus Times registered this with joy. Finally, political engagement, fight for votes, election campaigns, election events, election debates, student topics to discuss about that would fit our paper and the campus community very well.
But it all turned out different.
No single debate between the two candidates was held. Neither of them even took a stand on any burning student topic. It gave the students a feeling like there was nothing to talk about.
But if the ASF president does not know what is important for the student body, which University of La Verne related topics are discussed in the classrooms, in the dorms, the Supertents, Davenport and the Spot, it makes a bad impression of their ability to serve students well.
Being a good president is not all about handling problems. It is also about raising student awareness of ongoing issues, and getting to know the concerns of the average Leopard. But none of this happened in the 2004 ASF election campaign.
Asked why she thinks that Berry won, Schwartz answered, “Because he put a really good effort into publicity.”
This is definitely true. Throughout the campaign process, ULV students could go nowhere on campus without seeing Berry’s name on a huge banner or his face on at least 10 flyers smiling down on them.
It was a miracle that he somehow missed the inside door of the ULV toilet stalls, as he put up more than 200 flyers and banners.
Which would normally not be a bad thing, and totally acceptable if the flyers and banners were filled with information on what Berry wants to do for students.
But all they read was, “I will keep up the good work for you.”
Runner-up Schwartz made no difference in her campaign. Her, slightly fewer, banners only said, “It is all about the students,” which is true and nice, but meaningless.
The meaningless did not only include the elections for the president’s office, but also the candidates for public relations, secretary and vice president campaigns focused only one thing: their own names on the banners.
The formula to success in the ASF election campaign was: more posters equals more votes, which equals victory, instead of trying to win students by convincing them who is the best one for the job by making the right decision to take a stand on important student issues.
“There were issues we had different opinions on, but it is difficult to debate when you are currently working on the same topics in the ASF,” Schwartz said. “But students could always call or mail us with questions.”
The main question here should be, what should students ask about if the candidates fail to do their job to raise political awareness and interest?
All around the U.S., people complain that election campaigns have become too personality oriented and are not focused on important topics.
With the already ongoing mudfight between President George W. Bush and his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, it looks like this year will make no difference.
But those topic-free campaigns and fights for votes do not start on a national or statewide level.
They start locally, and this year, the ASF elections at ULV were just another example of entirely personality-oriented election campaigns.