Campaign shenanigans should be stopped

Since most of the country has been wrapped up in the presidential race, it’s easy to overlook next week’s student government elections. But next Tuesday and Wednesday, students get another chance to have their voices heard.

Below you will find columns from two candidates running for Urbana-Champaign student trustee, Rob Main, junior in Business, and Paul Schmitt, junior in LAS and former Daily Illini columnist.

Both appear in a news story today about a common phenomenon in many elections: dirty campaigning.

Both Main and Schmitt – commendably – discourage and deny engaging in behavior such as defacing or tearing down fliers. But unfortunately for them and the other candidates for student offices, little is being done about it.

While the Student Election Commission can review complaints made after the election, a former student body president was not unclear about his feelings toward the system saying, “Since no one sees real action, no one has any fear.”

It’s unrealistic to think that the many problems of student government and elections would be fixed if people stopped tearing down fliers. But that it happens at all, especially at a prestigious university like this one, speaks only to the pettiness involved.

While some lament that student government seems like a training ground for tomorrow’s politicos, one wonders if it would be better for the process (although only slightly more honorable) if candidates who disagreed simply posted fliers that attacked another candidate’s positions. It would be negative advertising to be sure, but it would serve to illustrate that the issues this campus faces can overcome traditional impressions of the process as a popularity contest.

Resorting to tearing down fliers or posting inflammatory remarks under the guise of anonymity on sites like Juicy Campus does a disservice to students who should be able to rely on student government to be an effective voice for their concerns.

As this election cycle comes to a close, candidates for the Illinois Student Senate, campus trustee and SORF board, along with their staff members, can tackle an issue where they have real power – restoring student government’s relevance and honor.

If they truly want to be the leaders of tomorrow, they can demonstrate their commitment to honest debate and honest politics now, while they, like their constituents, are still learning what it means to be responsible citizens in our democratic system.