Student-group endorsements on ballots fuel debate in MSA

Some argue endorsements overshadow other, more important aspects of candidates’ backgrounds.

by JP Leider

A new semester means a change of pace in addition to a hefty bill at the bookstore.

But for the Minnesota Student Association, a new semester marks a point in the ongoing debate about the merits of having student-group endorsements on election ballots.

While some say the Forum is arguing semantics, others, like Steve Wang, a student representative to the Board of Regents, argue the issue is very real.

“Endorsements (on the ballot) is one of the critical flaws of how MSA functions right now,” he said. “It’s bad because it promotes blind voting.”

At the most recent Forum meeting, Wang argued for a proposition against any group endorsements, political or otherwise, on MSA ballots. The election guidelines will be voted on at the next MSA meeting.

The issue is not whether endorsements should exist, Wang said, since every student group has the right to endorse whomever it wants the debate is whether endorsements should appear on the ballot.

Placing endorsements on the ballot instantly makes them appear more important than other aspects of a candidate’s background, which is not true, he said.

The ongoing dialogue has continued to gather steam after last year’s election.

Twelve at-large representatives were endorsed by the student organization University DFL, all of whom won in all-campus elections, said group president Max Page, also MSA’s Diversity Education Fund Grants Committee chairman.

Seven student senators ” who have dual membership on Student Senate and MSA ” were also endorsed by U-DFL and elected, he said.

Page argued endorsements on the ballot are a helpful tool for voters in choosing candidates who best represent them.

“The endorsement process offers students a glimpse into what that particular candidate stands for, and, if you’re voting on someone to represent you, you’d want to know more about them,” he said.

The issue under consideration by Forum is that people were troubled that U-DFL was active, worked hard and got people on the ballot, Page said.

“The debate that was brought up was an attack because some people were upset the U-DFL appeals to most people on campus,” he said.

Page disagreed with those who said a U-DFL endorsement got candidates “unfairly” elected.?

“To say that it’s unfair is to say it’s unfair that we have a majority of Republicans in Congress,” he said. “Forum is representative of the campus, as it should be.”

However, Page said, those in U-DFL don’t necessarily think alike.

The executive board of U-DFL, with four of five members also on MSA, has been split on more than half of the items considered in Forum, he said.

Organizational endorsements are a way to rally support around different candidates, said Margaret Cahill, the adviser of both MSA and the All-Campus Elections Commission.

However, Cahill said, because of endorsements on the ballot, students who are not well-informed on the candidates may see endorsements and vote for people because of them.

But there is not one dominant group, she said.

“Like everything else, it goes in ebbs and flows,” she said.

Success depends on which groups are willing to get out there and work, she said.

Even if endorsements on the ballot remain MSA policy, a goal should be to create more?awareness about each candidate, Cahill said.

“We want it to be students getting to know the candidates and not just the initials next to their name.”