This Wednesday, following delays and some particularly heated campaigning, students at the College of William and Mary are again tasked with electing the new leaders of their student government. The choice is hardly an easy one. Each ticket provides a unique perspective, but none is without quite sizable flaws. While we find it difficult to support any of the tickets currently running without any reservation, we believe that Ben Brown ’11 and Betty-Jeanne Manning ’12 are the candidates best suited to provide effective and reliable leadership to the Student Assembly.
The dedication both Brown and Manning have to the SA is immediately apparent. Both have generated some of the most meaningful initiatives proposed this year — Brown, as the SA chairman, and Manning as a student senator. Brown has helped extend STI testing, as well as the second round of flu shots, at the Student Health Center. He also, along with current SA President Sarah Rojas, began efforts to reform the College Alcohol and Drug Policy. Manning has been essential in adding campus safety telephone numbers to student ID cards. Clearly, each has the experience needed for the positions of president and vice president.
Their familiarity with policy clearly shows through in the objectives they’ve chosen to pursue. While these objectives may not be flashy, they are still significant and, most importantly, realistically implementable. Brown and Manning’s plan to reach out to the graduate community, especially in restructuring graduate student fees to allow graduates to see more of a return on their money, is incredibly sensible. Furthermore, their sustainability ideas, as simple as providing partial reimbursements to students who purchase energy-efficient appliances for their dorms, are simple ideas that promise concrete results.
Their experience, however, is the source of both their greatest asset, but also a significant weakness; it stresses their abilities to act within the SA, but also stresses their lack of any perspective from outside that admittedly restricted sphere.
The other pairs of candidates are better in integrating areas of the campus community, although often at the expense of others. Chrissy Scott ’11 and Kaveh Sadeghian ’12 have a strong service aspect to their candidacy, an area not greatly emphasized by the other candidates. Sadly, this enthusiasm does not extend to their other issues. For a campaign based around “the student voice,” Scott and Sadeghian often seem to distinctly lack their own leadership voice.
As far as pure passion is concerned, Jessee Vasold ’11 and Caitlin Goldblatt ’11 are easily ahead of the other candidates. However, while this advocacy applies strongly to some issues, such as sustainability and student rights, it’s entirely missing from others. A concrete proposal to improve the budget application process — a major campaign issue for all three tickets — is entirely missing, which points to only one of several areas in which Vasold and Caitlin’s knowledge of policy and views beyond their own seem insufficient, despite their activism and zeal.
Brown and Manning represent the opposite pole in this regard. Their ticket is the only one for which the phrase “hit the ground running” actually applies. Their ideas are clearly based on a working knowledge of what is possible, given the system they will be, and have been, working within. True, their knowledge comes at the expense of the passion shown by other candidates. But what they lack in enthusiasm they easily make up for in pure gumption. Brown has been one of the most active members of the SA in the past year, even helping to revise the SA code last summer, and shows no sign of stopping. The ticket’s promise to staff most, if not all, executive undersecretary positions before the end of school — and to spend the summer months initiating policy work — speaks to that dedication. Yet, despite vowing to fill these positions quickly, they’ve yet to establish a method for finding the most involved students in each issue area, instead of just the normal SA in-crowd.
We temper our support of Brown and Manning, then, with one qualification. We would hope that, should they be elected, they take effort to seek out those students already passionate in their respective areas of campus life. We would even hope that other candidates be considered in their respective areas of expertise.
If such a partnership could be created between passionate issue advocacy and effective leadership, both the SA and the student body would stand to gain a great deal. We sincerely believe that Brown and Manning are the candidates most prepared and willing to try.