Inactive senator wins reelection with unique strategy: minimal campaign
April 23, 2007
He was supposed to be the leader of the New School Revolution. He was supposed to be the “rogue” or “maverick” senator, the one with the cojones to stand up to Ryan Scofield and company. The one who, perhaps more than any other senator, was to provide the fresh addition that the stuffy, government major-laden Student Assembly senate so sorely needed.
p. But the revolution never got off the ground.
p. Sophomore Sean Sheppard says he got lost in the formality of the senate and faded into the background.
p. “I didn’t talk much,” Sheppard said. “I didn’t really do that much that is measurable by the current SA standards. I didn’t go to a lot of committee meetings. I was secretary and, apparently, one of the liaisons [between the senate and executive department]. I never met with the executive department. I just didn’t do what I was supposed to do because I don’t — and I hate to say [this] — I don’t like wasting my time for something I know wouldn’t yield tangible results.”
p. Sheppard attributes part of the reason for his lack of accomplishment this past year to the fact that all the people he ran with in the election last year lost.
p. Last year, fellow New School Revolution members sophomores Brad Clark, Stephan Jensen and Scott Williamson all saw their senate campaigns end in defeat, and SA presidential and vice presidential candidates Sean Barker and Constance Sisk, both seniors, were also defeated.
p. “I was very by myself,” Sheppard said. “That attitude definitely affected me throughout the entire year.”
p. In answering questions for this interview at the UC couches, Sheppard showed that he still possesses the same unique qualities that got him elected senator last year. He is currently designing his own major, Campus Activism and Education Reform, although he does not yet have enough credits to declare, saying that he is “mad far behind in [my] schoolwork.”
p. His ability to hold extended conversation on just about any topic regarding the College is remarkable. He often goes off on tangents he tastefully refers to as “diarrhea of the mouth,” where he’ll pose questions such as, “Why doesn’t the College buy the College Delly?” He possesses the charm of a politician, but none of the political correctness or rhetoric.
p. Sheppard says that he regrets his lack of performance this year.
p. “I regret that I was overcome by all the weirdness of the senate,” he said. “I wish that I had just seen it, processed it, and decided ‘I’m going to change this, this, this and this,’ and shared my ideas more vocally. And I didn’t. I was just like ‘this is stupid, man … fuck the man,’ more or less, ‘fuck the senate,’ and I did that for a whole year, more or less.”
p. After deciding to run for re-election this year, Sheppard ran a campaign that would make Karl Rove’s head explode. He led off by writing an opinion column for The Flat Hat in which he admitted how little work he did (“I miss a lot of committee meetings,” he wrote. “The ones that I go to, I rarely take minutes.”), did nothing to mention any of the work he actually did do and challenged students to hold their elected officials accountable.
p. “On March 29, cast your SA vote wisely and demand something for your commitment,” he wrote.
p. When all the votes were finally tallied, Sheppard was re-elected. He slid into fourth place, the last spot, with 42 percent of the vote, defeating his closest challenger sophomore John Constance by only 15 votes.
p. “Enough people understood what I was saying and realized that I was being honest and to the point,” Sheppard said.
p. SA President-elect Zach Pilchen, who worked with Sheppard as a Class of 2009 senator last year, called Sheppard’s campaign, “the most honest, well-intentioned senate campaign run in a long time.”
p. Constance had a different take.
p. “I think the election results clearly show that it’s not what you do that gets you elected, it’s how many people you know,” Constance said. “By his own remarks and statements, Sean has no desire to positively represent those who re-elected him into office.”
Sheppard disagreed with Constance’s statements.
p. “I don’t think [the opinions column] says that I don’t plan on doing anything, I think it says that I didn’t do anything,” he said.
p. Despite his own claims of lack of accomplishment, Sheppard tied for fifth in The Flat Hat’s “Fall 2006 SA Senate Report Card rankings.” Two of his fellow Class of 2009 senators from last year, Walter McClean and Pilchen (the third, Matt Beato, did not reply to an interview request), have high praise for Sheppard’s work and ingenuity.
p. “I often wish I had Sean’s big-picture perspective, because it’s easy to forget that the SA is meant to serve the students,” McClean said.
p. Sheppard has several ideas of how to make the SA senate less of a “recommendation body” and more of a direct representative body of the students.
p. He wants to establish a Student Activities Council that would be elected by student organizations and then would take care of the activity budgetary process instead of the senate.
p. He also wants the senate to write a recommendation to the school administration requesting more power for the student government. He believes the only way this can ultimately be achieved is if the student body takes an active part in this.
p. Sheppard has a fair share of experience in campus activism, as he is involved in Students for a Democratic Society. While there are no officers in SDS, Sheppard is among the 12 or so most involved members. He is currently busy planning a convention for the group to be held at the College April 20 to 22.
p. As for next year, Sheppard says that he is ready to get to work and make a difference. He has a year of experience in dealing with the formalities and structure of the senate under his belt, and his like-minded friend Pilchen (with whom he was once in a faux Facebook relationship) is taking over the reigns as SA president.
His claims of being alone and unaware of the rules of the game will not cut it next year. For Sheppard, there are no more excuses.
p. “If I don’t do anything this year, I am a scumbag,” Sheppard said.