Hillsdale’s Student Federation has proposed a new amendment to its Constitution. The amendment seeks to introduce fairer qualifications for officer positions and discourage uncontested elections. I’d like to set the record straight by dispelling three myths being spread by its opponents.
The first myth claims that the amendment compromises student fees by enabling someone who has never experienced the spring budget process to run for Treasurer. The Constitution already allows this scenario to take place. Candidates for Treasurer are required to have one complete semester of experience on the Federation, but there is no requirement that their experience is in the spring semester. A student who serves in the fall and studies abroad or on WHIP the next semester is currently permitted to run for Treasurer the following November, having never experienced the budget process.
Does the amendment make this more likely? Perhaps slightly, but it is also important to keep in mind that to run, a student must first be nominated by another representative on the Federation. If a candidate is clearly under-qualified, it is unlikely that he or she will be nominated by a fellow representative. Even if a clearly under-qualified candidate were nominated, his opponents would have ample opportunity to campaign against him. Still, this scenario is hardly unattractive — right now, next to no campaigning takes place. Students who are not personally connected to candidates have little motivation to vote.
The second myth is that the amendment allows students with far less experience to run for officer positions. Right now, students can run with one semester of experience. This is not uncommon — one of the students running this week, in fact, has only served for one semester. The amendment would allow students who began serving at the beginning of this semester to run as well since they too will have served a complete semester by the time they take office. Since we only meet twice per month, the difference in experience between these two types of students at the time of the election boils down to one meeting. At the time of taking office, there is no difference in the minimum experience required. Furthermore, the amendment would require that a student who took office in the fall be held to a higher attendance standard if he or she wishes to run for office the following year. Only one absence would be allowed. All other students are permitted three excused absences per term.
The third myth: Less experience translates to incompetence. Length of service on the Federation is by no means the sole determiner of a candidate’s competence for an officer position. Some of our hardest working and most dedicated members are first-term representatives. Two of our members began chairing committees the day they were sworn in, and both have done an excellent job. Younger members tend to be more motivated to prove themselves, whereas some of the Federation’s least competent and laziest officers have been those in their third year of service.
The amendment is necessary because it accomplishes two things. First, it allows sophomores with experience on the Federation to run for President or Treasurer if either of these positions, which are normally reserved for juniors, are uncontested. The current constitution only permits juniors to run for these two positions. There are very few juniors on the Federation, so this often results in uncontested elections, which allow a junior to become Treasurer or President without winning the approval of the student body. This is unhealthy, and it has occurred two years in a row for the office of Student Body President.
Second, the amendment permits representatives elected at the start of this semester to run for next year’s officer positions since they will have a full semester of experience by the time they take office. Right now, a representative who takes office at the start of the fall semester (which is rare but typically occurs due to a Greek house’s unusual election cycle) cannot run that November for an officer position. This amendment would allow them to do so if a very high standard of participation is met.
If you have not yet voted, I urge you to support the amendment. If it fails, we are stuck with the status quo until at least 2020.
Natalie Meckel is a senior studying Biochemistry and the president of Hillsdale’s Student Federation.