Be prepared for GM Week

The student government suite is alive with talk about elections this time of year. I thought I’d give my thoughts on the process and share some of the resources available to the student body. Student government is an influential and important organization on campus, and it provides a voice for students and the organization of activities beyond what can be found on most campuses.

Because of the role that student government plays on campus, it is important that students take the election process seriously. It’s easy to vote based upon popularity or signage, and get a free mug in the process, but the responsible student will research the candidates and understand their stances on the issues.

You can get started learning about candidates right away, before the GM week debates. The Facebook group, “RPI GM Week: Students for honest discussion with the candidates” (available at http://rpi-gm-discuss.tk/) has been set up to create a forum for members of the Rensselaer community to ask questions, and for candidates to respond. I encourage you to read the discussions taking place and ask any questions that may be on your mind.

Of course, the traditional means of learning about candidates, such as the GM Week Poly issue and the debates, are still important venues for discussion. The Rules and Elections Committee (http://elections.union.rpi.edu/) is also a good resource to see who is running, track their progress, or learn about the rules of the process.

The most visible races, as always, are those of GM and PU. I’m not going to use this setting to endorse any particular candidate; I would like to mention that I have had the pleasure of having both current PU candidates on the Union Executive Board for this past year. While each candidate is unique, they both bring enthusiasm and good ideas to the table. Both have taken substantial leadership roles on the board’s committees, and I have faith that either could do an excellent job.

I hope that all of the races this year can be focused on issues. Last year, technicalities of the election process came into play during campaigning and had some level of impact in the GM race. While finger pointing can go back-and-forth, the important takeaway should be for everyone to understand their part (whether candidate or Rules and Elections official). The goal, ultimately, should be for a fair race in which the students choose the candidate who can best represent them in office.

It is important to sometimes reflect on our surroundings; to view the bigger picture beyond your own homework, classes, or activities. Over the next few weeks, take a moment to think about your experiences here. Consider what things are issues for you. Think about what has gotten better or worse over your time in college. Then take another moment to look at candidates and consider which seem to align themselves with your opinions. Consider their ability to do their job—to represent you, to assist you, to improve your experience at RPI. It’s your vote, so use it well.