My ideal USA candidate

By Nathan Baumgartner
Opinion Contributor

As election season for next year’s senators for sophomore, junior, and senior classes comes to a close, I find myself in a state of exciting uncertainty: while I have absolutely no idea as to which individuals will represent each class for the 2015-2016 academic year at the time of writing this piece, not knowing has surprisingly had enthralling consequences for me as an individual. I feel like next year will be interesting. I feel like the people I elect will represent me. I feel like the people rallying for my vote empower me.

I feel like I’m in high school all over again, because I know that all of this will go away in time, especially the further one deviates from today.

Let me start off by saying that I’m certainly not for maintaining the status quo here. The institution itself is not, Canisius President and former Griffin Editor John J. Hurley remarking in a purportedly-confidential correspondence concerning the fiscal state of the institution discovered the Buffalo News on May 4, 2013 by stating, “I am concerned, and in looking at the national trends and the New York State trends, it’s something I’m taking very seriously.”

Finances, whether we like it or not, play a huge part of the Undergraduate Student Association here at the College: in Section A of Article II of the USA Constitution, as of July 14, 2011, states, “a registered student is one who has paid the student tax.” A $200 contribution from full-time students (defined by Canisius College as a student enrolled in at least 12 credit hours for the semester in question) or an $18 contribution from part-time students (defined by Canisius College as a student enrolled in no more than 11 credit hours for the semester in question) allows USA  to delegate funding to the plethora of clubs and other organizations that exist on this campus. However, even in my first year here at Canisius, I have seen pieces in the Griffin where members of USA have inappropriately derived funding for certain activities.

There is a degree of confidence that undergraduates put in their representatives for Senate. And those aforementioned events with USA this year have detracted my confidence in the ability for USA to effectively represent the undergraduate student body. Therefore it unfortunately makes sense that it seems that the group of candidates for sophomore, junior, and senior candidates have tended to lose sight of that. Let me add that this by no way means that everyone has fallen into this trap, one I believe it is easy to fall into.

One duo, in particular, used the slogan, “The Best, Forget the Rest” on their posters as I would walk from Old Main to my residence hall. Simultaneously, this feeling of anger and pity came upon me. Imagine that feeling repeating itself multiple times as I made this walk, not because I see this statement as false, but I saw it rather as an unsubstantiated statement. A similar thing happened with one candidate comparing themselves to the likes of The Karate Kid and Ironman. Another feeling of anger, another feeling of pity just overwhelming me. These candidates seem like very admirable people, but these personas cast – which I perceived as quite elevating and borderline libellous – remained unsubstantiated.

This is why a campaign is a work of art. Anyone can create a poster, thanks to technology or the friend you know that knows how to work Photoshop like a boss. Anyone can create a Facebook page for their election; that’s arguably the easiest medium through which candidates can garner support for a school election this day in age. But as with any work of art, it can become difficult to master. It’s what the candidate does with that poster, does with that Facebook page, and does with their overall campaign that truly matters. I do not have the time to look at a detailed plan of what you plan to accomplish as a representative, nor should you have to create one for me to look at. I’m also not concerned about your personality. I don’t like personality competitions, and unfortunately these elections tend to become a contest as to who has the most friends. I don’t want to see candidates distributing cookies, leaving candy on common room tables, or distributing leis with corny puns and expecting my vote.

It is my experience that such tactics do not necessarily translate into becoming an effective representative: while it does get your name out there – and certainly that is important for such an election – it translates into promises being broken afterwards, my vote essentially just a tool and many representatives losing sight of the people that put them in office in the first place. Unfortunately this tended to hold true for elections last academic year: save for the sporadic USA email, I lost touch with some of my class representatives, and it seemed that they had this elevated position to them. There are some people I regard as friends that ran for elections, but I did not vote for them, because they did not provide sufficient evidence that they would campaign for change. In order to move forward, we need to change. We need to become progressive. We need to lose sight of our personalities.

We need to see how reliant we are on other people, and how reliant other people are on us. Every person matters, and every person has the ability to noticeably impact something, from a seemingly negligible school government to something as profound in our lives as the federal government. But what does not matter is our personality. And that, my fellow Griffs, is what makes up my ideal senator: a person not afraid to abandon his, her, or their personality and do what the general undergraduate body deems appropriate. Because whether we like it or not, we are one community, and in my opinion, Canisius is truly where leaders are made. And unlike other institutions, you don’t have to wear a blue-and-gold golf shirt to be one. You just have to get yourself out there. You just have to seek more. You just have to take initiative.

You just have to be yourself.

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