Today, we have an opinion piece in from middbeat editor Aleck Silva-Pinto ’16 on the role of endorsements in the race for Middlebury’s SGA President. Aleck’s take on this controversial facet of the election process is definitely worth a read regardless of how you feel about the endorsement itself. Comments/questions/concerns? Or just want to submit an opinion of your own? Email us at [email protected] Additionally, look out for continuing coverage of the election on middbeat in the coming days as we release interviews conducted with each of the presidential candidates.
Yesterday, The Campus released its annual endorsement for SGA President and Chair of the Community Council. The paper chose Caroline Walters ‘16.5 and Durga Jayaraman ‘16 respectively as the best candidates. The article has caused quite a bit of consternation as demonstrated by a slew of negative comments on the The Campus’ website. Many took issue with the picks themselves, but some enlightened readers got at the heart of the issue: why is The Campus endorsing anyone?
As a first-year at Middlebury, I remember being taken aback with The Campus’ endorsement of Rachel Lidell ‘15. That is not to say I didn’t find her qualified, I just felt it odd that the only newspaper on a campus of 2,500 students would find it necessary to endorse a candidate. Endorsements are a key function of various newspapers all over the country and their recommendations inform the poll-booth decisions of millions of Americans. However, unlike the nuanced political scene of the United States, the SGA is a specific organization that serves a very specific role on campus.
In 2009, the editorial staff of The Williams Record published an article encouraging students to “inform themselves” about the platform of each candidate before voting. Their staff stressed the importance of understanding what exactly the College Council (Williams’ equivalent of SGA) does and how their actions affect students’ daily lives. The article also does a fantastic job detailing the platforms of both candidates for their readers, something The Campus has failed to do in their recent endorsement.
Middlebury is stirring over yesterday’s endorsement for the wrong reasons. If you take issue with the candidate they chose, so be it. Their specific choice, however, should not be reason for uproar. I would implore the entire student body to disregard the endorsement entirely as The Campus’ editorial has demonstrated that it is not an authority on the issue. In their desire to emulate a classic newspaper convention they give an unfair and unwarranted advantage to a candidate based a set of short interviews and, in turn, encourage a collective laziness among students who now feel they know which candidate should win. The editorial staffs at newspapers like The New York Times or The Washington Post have years of experience in the various stages of local and national politics, and their opinions are respected across the country. I have trouble believing The Campus’ editorial staff knows much more about SGA than the regular student. Yes, there is regular SGA coverage, but, as evidenced by the faulty and short-sided assessment of the SGA’s accomplishments this past year in their endorsement, such coverage has not aided their actual understanding of the SGA’s inner workings.
I would like to mirror the message of The Williams Record; do your own research. With such a small constituency, the legwork that each candidate does should trump the opinion of a few editors at our paper. Keep this election as fair as possible and try your best to understand what makes each candidate qualified. We are not electing actual politicians, we are looking for someone who can successfully manage the SGA. I struggle to see how characteristics like “a fresh perspective and an undeniable enthusiasm” are qualities that are relevant to the election. To The Campus, please realize that your role at Middlebury should not include endorsing candidates for SGA, but rather informing the students of their options. Your endorsement has done more to make this an ill-influenced popularity contest rather than a fair race- and that can be said for every endorsement I have seen in my time here.