Elections Editorial: The New Political’s Student Senate Voter’s Guide 2014 By The New Political Posted on April 16, 2014 24 min read 1 0 381 The New Political traditionally does not make formal endorsements for Ohio University Student Senate races. We feel as though choosing one ticket over another would compromise our integrity in covering these campaigns, so instead, each spring, we produce a critical analysis of each ticket, comparing and contrasting their platforms in an effort to determine what would be most beneficial for students. The judgments and opinions expressed in this voting guide are those of the editorial staff of The New Political. If you didn’t think your vote mattered, think again. This year’s Student Senate election season has proven to be one of the most diverse and ideologically divisive elections in years. And if you ask the parties, the stakes have never been higher. Ohio University’s Student Senate has been in the spotlight for a number of unfortunately negative reasons over the past year, the climax of which was the very public arrest and subsequent forced resignation of the body’s president Nick Southall. Writing this year’s election guide was more difficult than usual, because each party’s positive aspects could just as easily be construed as being negative. It’s an extremely ideological debate, with each party offering a slight (or radically) different philosophy on what role student government should have within the university at large. This is our attempt to cut through the ideology that coats each party’s message and get down to the basic realities that each party represents. Restart President: Megan Marzec Vice President: Caitlyn McDaniel Treasurer: Jolana Watson Website: http://ourestart.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/OURestartSenate Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/restartstudentsenate This year there is a serious party outside of the Senate ticket that has been organized around the common goal of student unity. The New Political has never before seen a Student Senate ticket at Ohio University that promises as much radical change and as many big ideas as Restart does. Voting for Restart is a definite vote for change, but some may consider that vote a gamble against the house. Restart’s party branding is self-explanatory: they’re looking for a revolution of Ohio University’s student government. They’re made up almost entirely of members and supporters of the Ohio University Student Union, a body that has been attempting to advocate for student rights for several years. If elected into office, they plan to eliminate much of the structure within Senate, deleting titles and bureaucracy, with the end goal of allowing any student who attends a meeting to have a vote in the body. That’s a tall order, but in many ways, this may be the change that students, often disillusioned with Student Senate, have been waiting for. Restart has plans to work toward a “participatory budget model.” This plan lacks specifics, but Marzec has proposed that it would be a body through which funds could be more equally and democratically distributed to student organizations. Marzec admitted that this is not a model that immediately could be implemented, but it may be a strong step toward fixing a lot of the funding issues the body has. The Student Union in the past has organized many a protest in its time, most directed toward tuition hikes, administrative raises and the guaranteed tuition model. They have a lot of overlap with organizations like F*ckrapeculture, which have been successful at instigating at least marginal change within Senate and the university as a whole. Some students will be really happy to have student representatives who are willing to be arrested for causes they believe in, like presidential candidate Megan Marzec. Other students may not be as enthused. Unfortunately, Restart’s biggest selling point is also their biggest flaw: the complete restructure of student government is a hard sell. The ticket will undoubtedly face pressure from students and administration to not make many of the radical changes they propose. The catch here is that it’s impossible for voters to tell what’s going to happen in the future. They can only base their vote on what’s been said. Whether they like it or not, Restart is completely inexperienced with regard to the way Senate currently works. While that is by no means a disqualifying factor, that’s a challenge that is going to take major effort and time to rectify, and there may be some major sacrifices along the way. Students are relatively oblivious to the inner workings of Senate, but among Senate Appropriations Committee, uFund, the various commissions and the general body itself, a lot of practical services and programs are provided to students. Marzec says these things won’t fall by the wayside, but only time can tell if that will be true. In a recent letter to The Post, Student Union and Restart member Will Klatt said that, if elected, they would need the experience of the Action party to help with the transition. That kind of self-aware statement is rare from the Student Union, but a welcome statement in light of the challenges before them. If and when Restart is elected into office, the party’s titular restart of student government will by no means be immediate. It’s going to be a process. And it’s going to be an experiment, one that may pay off for Ohio University students who are tired with the status quo. One for OU President: Jordan Ballinger Vice President: Alex George Treasurer: Carter Phillips Website: http://www.oneforou.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oneforou Twitter: https://twitter.com/oneforohio One is a party made up largely of current Senate members who are proposing both cultural and practical changes to Senate through a five-tier process outlined in their platform. One has the most comprehensive ticket in the race, but it’s up to the student voters to decide whether they buy what One is selling. One’s biggest flaw may not be the fault of the party itself. They can tout having 25 percent of their ticket being new to Senate as much as they want, they’re going to have a hard time distancing themselves from Senate’s mistakes from the past. This is something they may be completely capable of. Each party in this year’s election has its own unique challenge that it must overcome in order to prove to students its legitimacy — One’s challenge may be the organization itself. This is by no means Jordan Ballinger’s fault. He’s absolutely right: he is not Nick Southall, nor will he ever be; In fact, if elected, he will probably have a better overall track record. The unfortunate truth is that One, as a party, too closely fits the role that VOICE and REACH did before them: the Senate incumbents. That said, Ballinger has made it very clear that he intends to work with the conduct and discipline committee to make positions within Senate more accountable to both their constituents but also to the body as a whole. He has said that he is in favor of a formal review process, similar to that which the executive ticket has each term. If this plan follows through, Ballinger may bring some much-needed credibility back to what some view as an inherently flawed Senate system. Regardless of any legitimate and helpful changes Senate may make, if One is elected, they are still going to be seen as the “internal Senate ticket.” For a party that supports only marginal changes to Senate structure and programs, that may be a hard pill to swallow for some voters. One also seems to have a hard time taking positions on issues. Instead of taking a stance on guaranteed tuition, they consider themselves firmly dedicated to surveying the student body before making a decision. Ballinger himself, in his many trips to the Statehouse, advocated for the “permissive” language in House Bill 111, to the ire of many Student Union-types. The ticket is firmly entrenched in the camp of “representative democracy” rather than “direct democracy.” This is by no means an inherent flaw, but something students need to consider when they cast their vote. The benefit of their ticket? With One, more than Restart or Action, you know exactly what you are getting. One will maintain (and possibly improve) the status quo of Senate, which, when it is not trying to right its own wrongs or manage internal drama, funds a lot of great programs and does really important work for students. One has many practical plans for improving Senate in every direction. The proposed SAC overhaul would make funding easier to access without sacrificing structure or accountability in the process. Adding more votes on minority commissions is a great move toward allowing students representation within the body. The party is pushing for more student representation on the Budget Planning Council, something that is sorely needed and would be a major win for students. If One’s executive ticket succeeds in ushering in some of the culture change they propose, they may well be the best choice for students looking for a successful and efficient Student Senate. It’s a matter of whether they have won back students’ trust in their campaign that will determine their fate. Action for OU President: Zainab Kandeh Treasurer: Rose Troyer Website: http://www.action4ou.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/ACTION4OU Finally we have Action, the other largely internal Senate ticket. Despite making fewer headlines than either One or Restart, Action remains a serious contender with a full ticket of candidates and legitimate ideas about how to changes the current structure of Student Senate. Voting for Action may mean for voting for moderation and the status quo, but Action’s platform features some necessary aggressiveness and passion that Senate sorely needs. One of the tactile changes regarding college affordability that Action proposes to address is the idea of a student foundation: a student-organized, funded and endowed scholarship fund. This idea is pretty strong on paper. Action Presidential Candidate Zainab Kandeh has cited the Indiana University Student Foundation as a successful implementation. The idea is within the realm of possibility for Student Senate, but Kandeh’s plan currently lacks definition to back it up. Voting for Action on this idea alone may not be a risk worth taking. Action’s platform features an entire section on creating and maintaining senator accountability, including strictly enforced office hours and service requirements for senators to interact with their constituents. They would also push for more student involvement or at least knowledge of the body, with a weekly newsletter sent to all students about the work being done within Senate as well as pushing to make Senate more approachable as a body. These are great ideas that Senate needs, but they may not be enough to change a deeply entrenched Senate culture. One item on the platform, with regard to campaign structure in itself, is the proposed elimination of party tickets. Under Action’s proposal, only three executives would run as a ticket and all senator positions would have to run as individuals. Every party should agree that Senate elections need reform, but this may be one step too far. The disorganization of multiple senator candidates might cause confusion during election season. That said, it would undoubtedly make it easier for individual candidates to have more personal campaigns depending on the position they are running for. The New Political’s Jesse Bethea has a spot-on interpretation of Action’s ticket. Action has a strong — possibly stronger — platform compared to other parties, but they have no clear selling point. Many responses to debate questions from Zainab have been answers, but they lack cohesion and an underlying principle that the other parties have in spades. This is unfortunate, because a student choosing between Restart’s “Start from Scratch” and One’s “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it (more than necessary)” would probably love to have a moderate ticket with moderate changes, but also moderate faith in the current system. But that student hasn’t heard about Action, and, if they have, they don’t know what they’re about. Rose Troyer, current senate Off-Campus Life Commissioner, has certainly earned some points in her time as a member of Senate. Last weekend, she assisted with the organization and successful launch of the 10th annual Athens Beautification Day. With nobody running for vice president and Troyer running for treasurer, she may be an integral part of Student Senate, if elected. Action may seem like the third-wheel party in this election, but that shouldn’t stop you for seriously considering their proposals. Voting Information Before voting for Action, Restart or One, consider the values of each party to make sure they align with yours. Voting in the election will be held online. Each student will receive an email at 8 a.m. Thursday morning with a link to the voting website. Students will be required to sign in with their OHIO ID and password before voting. Voting closes at 7 p.m. on Thursday. We at The New Political urge everyone to vote, if at all possible, on Thursday.