To the Editor:

Student politics at RPI are confusing. The past two elections have been sullied by poster tampering and, I must say, I am still at a loss as to why a candidate would risk removing a few posters given the ramifications. I’m confused further as to how they could not learn from the mistakes of the previous year. Sure, I can see why they would want an edge over their opponents, but if they’re so desperate to win that they break the rules of the very organization they are running for, then why run for the position in the first place?

What confuses me the most, though, is that political parties have formed in our student government. I can understand the need for different political parties on the national and regional scale that represent the wide spectrum of views help by citizens of a democracy, but I’m at a complete loss as to why we need this at a student union. There are some 7,000 students here at RPI, and the student union budget comes in at $56,000, so this isn’t some petty, extra-curricular club we’re talking about, it’s a legitimate decision-making entity whose actions can have a measurable effect on all RPI students. Does that constitute the need for political factions? Are the views and needs of RPI clubs and students so disparate and irreconcilable that we need to have our representatives conform to a political doctrine before we even vote for them? I don’t think so. What’s even more confusing is that I could find precious little information about what these parties stand for; save for the classic rhetoric of transparency, communication, etc. The natural question to ask is: why do these political parties at RPI exist?

If you wanted to get involved in the student union, then it would surely be advantageous to ally yourself with an established group of people who already hold positions. Then, when it’s your turn to run for a major position, you know you’ll have the support of all your members in return. It’s a superb idea, and democracies all over the world practice it, but we don’t need it at RPI. It will breed cronyism, nepotism, and partisanship. It might give a leg-up to those who are prepared to toe the party line, but it will definitely put further distance between the offices of power and those whom they purport to represent. This division in the union and disconnection from the student body is already happening. The campaign of a 2015 write-in candidate captured this disenfranchisement with the insipid slogan: “Average, Casual, Frat.” The student government is so insular, so broken, that even with this beautiful weather and heavy RPI workload, somebody found the time to run a campaign solely to poke fun at it.

RPI deserves better. You deserve better. Who you vote for is up to you, but if your union candidate is politically affiliated, who exactly are you voting for?

Dean Howarth

Ph.D. Candidate

Department of Physics

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