Candidates campaign on campus, hoping to become “the next big thing.” However, the democratic process at FAMU has become a cruel joke.
The absurdity of campaigning has made FAMU’s political landscape comparable to a parade of hustlers. The SGA needs to take a serious look into campaign reform in order to regain the dignity of the election process.
When selecting the leadership for the United States, voters are given almost an entire year to mull over the candidates. They are given the opportunity to think about the ramifications of their choices.
But when selecting the leadership of FAMU, voters are sucked into a week-long popularity contest full of glossy print posters, Greek rivalries, bad gossip and sometimes great food.
To expect us to make educated decisions about the fate of our school in one week’s time is unrealistic. Also, other problems in the election statutes are almost as crippling to the campaigning process.
Chapter 602, Section 1 of the SGA Election Statutes, states that “Bribery will not be tolerated.” But there is no clarity about who is being bribed. If the code applies to the bribing of students, the SGA has dropped the ball.
Candidates can be seen all over campus handing out pens, food, party favors and other semi-useful objects, meant to entice student voters. This process stretches beyond mere campaigning into the realm of bribery.
They may not offer money, but the tradeoff for votes is there. These tactics do not force candidates to market themselves on the basis of their merit, competency and goals for the student body.
Meanwhile, Chapter 607, Section J, Article 7 of the election statutes prohibits the “use of FAMU seal in campaigning material.” These same statutes say nothing about the vapid trademark infringement on the campaign trail. Candidates boast name-brand logos on their campaign posters and handouts with no penalty handed out by SGA. To watch out for the candidate’s legal interests, the statutes should bar this blatantly unethical practice.
Nonetheless, the most severe problem SGA hopefuls face is not their potentially illegal campaign activities.
Campaign finance reform is an issue the SGA should take to heart. A monetary limit for campaign expenditures would stop candidates from taking advantage of the collegiate election experience.
Without a cap on spending FAMU is consistently at the mercy of the biggest spender.
We must hope that the elected officials see fit to return dignity to the electoral process.
Jason E. Hutchins and Karen E. Marsh for The Editorial Board.