Student presidents should not be viewed as representatives

Ohio University President Roderick McDavis took on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and among those he challenged was Ohio University student body President Megan Marzec. Marzec would soon post a video of her dumping “blood” (red paint, tomato juice and water) on her head, noting the number of recent civilian deaths in Palestine, reasoning that Ohio University is financially complicit.

I do not wish to discuss the Israeli and Palestinian conflict as Marzec does, other than to insist that Marzec’s statements are undoubtedly not anti-Semitic.

Instead, please marvel upon a rather revolutionary idea that Marzec has, intentionally or not, brought to light: the error of treating a president as a representative.

The primary, and certainly the most palatable, argument against Marzec’s actions is that they do not represent the Ohio University student body. In response, Marzec stated she “ran on a platform of not representing students, denying this ideal that any one person can represent the thoughts and political views of all people.”

Indeed, little thought is needed to reject that goal as preposterous, as is the notion that any current president fulfills such standards. The duties of the office are to preside — obviously — over a population and serve as its chief executor. A good president must be in touch with one’s people, but to represent all may be similar to representing nothing at all.

Why? Student government is not a business, wherein controversial stances taken by leadership can harm the brand and affect revenue. Opinions of student government leadership that do not pertain to its internal mechanics, while often correlating to its goals in advocacy pertaining to other organizations, have no ramifications with respect to one’s held office.

There is a greater danger in a culture where student leadership has become too detached from any sense of self. If student leaders are discouraged from feeling emboldened to stand up for what they believe in, students risk losing more power than they already have.

A final danger is underscored well in a letter to the editor in The Post of Athens, Ohio. “Not one person speaks for an entire community” was written by Will Klat, who was upset by Marzec’s video but noticed something troubling on his side of the aisle. “I’ve have had four separate Jewish students come up to me to express concern by the manner in which Rabbi Danielle has been attempting to speak on behalf of all Jews on campus. Anyone who chooses to speak on behalf of an entire ethnic or religious group does nothing more than silence voices and shows their own lack of leadership,” Klat wrote.

We should not look to one person to represent us. Those who serve us deserve better. So do we.