New A.S. candidates challenge status quo

by Leonardo Castaneda

Artwork courtesy of staff artist Omar Rodriguez

Associated Students at San Diego State has perfected a system where like — minded successors are routinely shaped from the same mold and virtually assured electoral victory. The vast majority of these officers are groomed within the Greek community. This creates an oligarchy on campus in which a small, empowered minority controls and ostracizes the general student population. However, the candidates in the current election show some faint glimmers of hope for real change in A.S.’ status quo.

The glaring signs littered around campus are probably your only indication an election is currently taking place. While they preach hollow slogans of leadership and experience to a listless audience, you will find, standing defiant in their simplicity, a few strategically placed signs with a straightforward “Stewart for Vice President — Because I give a f**k.”

Joe Stewart represents a new kind of candidate aiming to change business as usual in A.S. Frustrated by a consistently poor representation of constituents by the student government, in 2009 he became a vocal advocate for change on campus. As a candidate, he combines a deep understanding of the inner workings of A.S. with practical ideas about how to revamp the system with greater school–wide involvement. Candidates such as Stewart can instill the change that will translate into a more effective, helpful and transparent A.S.

It’s no surprise approximately 90 percent of students don’t even vote when their choices are reduced to Greek candidates who are clearly detached from normal campus life, or fringe candidates clearly detached from this planet. Even well-qualified and reasonable non–Greek candidates such as Laura Moreno fail to appeal to the general student population. However, any attempt to increase electoral involvement, even if it is for yet another minority, is a step in the right direction.

At the end of the day, the lack of connection between candidates and their constituents leaves students wallowing in apathy about the whole electoral process. They have no motivation to vote, let alone volunteer themselves for candidature. There are many well–qualified students on campus with the managerial skills and moral compass required to lead A.S. Yet, they’ve been so indoctrinated into the belief that only Greek candidates are capable of winning, they never bother to run. Instead, we are left to choose from the 15 percent of students from the Greek community.

This self–perpetuating incestuous system keeps power in the hands of the few.

Stewart’s campaign represents a true paradigm shift for A.S. elections. By reaching out to the some 27,000 other students who don’t normally vote, Stewart has been almost the only candidate to make a legitimate effort at garnering more student involvement. More importantly, he’s proving you don’t need to appeal to Greek or any other special interest groups on campus to be a legitimate contender. This kind of involvement is proving student apathy can be shaken off and deep passion for this school and an appreciation for honesty can be inspired.

The common student can have a tremendous impact on an election. When mobilized, they can collectively turn otherwise ignored candidates into serious contenders. Stewart has begun to dispel the myths about Greek dominance of executive positions. He has proven that dedicated support can be more powerful in eliciting interest in the election than other candidates’ posters and slogans could. We are witnessing the birth of a new status quo where a broader cross-section of students will take a stronger hold of A.S. and candidates must serve all students equally to garner their votes.

This shift away from the current minority-dominated oligarchy will mean A.S.’ resources and services will be more equitably shared between students. Abysmally low voter turnout rates mean officials and their successors know they are not truly accountable to the student body. Their focus is honed in on the Greek community and a few other campus organizations that consistently provide voters. Making candidates accountable to the whole student population makes them more responsive to our needs, more likely to make decisions that benefit everyone at SDSU.

Regardless of the outcome, the future looks brighter already. But we can’t stop now. We need students from every corner of campus involved in A.S., as voters and candidates for for executive positions. Stewart has created the path toward direct student control of A.S. Now it falls upon the rest of us to follow his lead. We can do this by learning more about the inner workings of A.S., running for executive office and simply voting.

— Leonardo Castaneda is a business administration freshman.

— The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.

NOTE: In order to give readers the ability to make an informed decision, The Daily Aztec is obligated to disclose that Joe Stewart is a regular contributor to the Opinion section. Endorsements and analysis should be considered in light of the authors’ personal connection to the candidate.