Frankenstein for Student President: Commentary from an Indecisive Voter

After talking with other students about the upcoming AAS student presidential election, I have ultimately come to the conclusion that the best candidate is…all of them. In my mind, I’ve metaphorically grafted the best qualities of all of the potential candidates to create the perfect “Frankenstein” candidate, embodying the positive visions of each candidate for the future of the College. Of course, this imaginary Frankenstein is not on the ballot. Hopefully, by Thursday, election day, I will be able to objectively yet firmly determine which candidate I believe best represents my vision for the college.

More likely than not, and whether they admit it or not, many other Amherst students have already made up their minds about who they will vote for long before reading over the candidates’ respective platforms. A substantial handful of my friends told me that they are voting for someone because they are a friend or because the candidate was the first to reach out to them. As soon as they have some kind of superficial justification, some students seem to be pretty set on how they will vote, proceeding to focus on more important academic or extracurricular matters. Honestly, in a world constantly threatened by political instability, terrorism, and environmental catastrophe, the AAS elections may not be “real” politics. Nonetheless, I would say that learning not to be apathetic to our surrounding political environment at Amherst College can prepare us when we officially break out of the Amherst bubble as alumni.

One might ask: Why not vote for the candidate that you know best, the one you trust to be a good representative? Why even bother analyzing the candidates’ platforms? I am not suggesting that we invest excessive time and mental energy in a student government election, but we really should not let it become a popularity contest. This isn’t high school. Our political choices matter at Amherst College. The president will serve as a liaison between the student body and the administration. We should take time to consider all candidates, even if this means we may change our mind about a candidate who is also a good friend. Julian, Peter, and Amani have all provided wonderful outlines for their political platforms, accessible through their Facebook campaign pages.

In her presidential platform, among other things, Amani, a former Residential Counselor, outlines specific ways she intends to make resource centers more visible and accessible, to improve transfer and international student experiences, and to promote sexual respect on campus. Furthermore, she has a whole section of her platform dedicated to student club leadership training through educational tutorials and ongoing support, as well as the needs of members of club sports teams. As a current club Co-Chair, I can definitely appreciate Amani’s recognition of the challenges of club leadership and management, especially in regard to interacting with AAS and acquiring funds. Her platform also proposes initiatives to foster community on campus, create a more environmentally friendly dining hall, and make the AAS Senate more transparent. (Her platform can be read in full on Facebook.)

Peter’s platform notes how qualifications matter (in addition to being passionate, positive, and down-to-earth). I admire how he has served on multiple committees such as the Transportation Committee (as a Chair) and the First-Year Life and Orientation Committee (as a founding member). Keeping the administration accountable, Peter has also been a student activist in regard to sexual respect and resource centers. He has event planning experience as a member of the E-Board of The Campus Activities Board. For the future, Peter envisions an Amherst community that continues to improve its sexual respect initiatives, fosters community traditions, and empowers all students, regardless of their identity. Like Amani, he is also interested in the status of club sports and Amherst’s environmental impact. Improving Orientation also seems like a very important goal for Peter. (His platform can be read in full on Facebook.)

Julian, “The Right Guy for the Job” asks the student body not to “settle” for what we have, despite Amherst’s recent improvements and developments. While his written platform seems more concise than those of Amani and Peter, he tackles academic support and sexual respect with the same level of concern as the other candidates. One of Julian’s unique objectives is his interest in partnering with local business so that AC Dollars can be used at shops and restaurants in town. (His platform can be read in full on Facebook.)

I really like all of the aforementioned candidates, but to be honest, compared to the presidential election, I have been much more decisive in supporting particular campaigns for JC Chair and Treasurer. However, unlike JC chair or Treasurer, the power and prestige of the AAS presidency has made me more reluctant to pick a favorite candidate. I have decided not to join the photo campaigns of particular student presidential candidates. I do not disagree with their visions, but I need all the time I can get to really think about who I want to support. I didn’t want to be a supporter for a candidate’s photo campaign one day, only to change my mind the next upon reconsidering their platform.

So, I still can’t make up my mind about who to vote for. Some might call me indecisive, but I just seek to be as fair to the candidates as I can. I don’t want my vote for a candidate to be a superficial or thoughtless decision. We owe it to ourselves to start becoming more mindful of our political agency now. We should use our college years filled with AAS elections as preparation for how we should approach larger political issues.

Sure, take your classmate’s character, personality, and presence into consideration. After all, a student president’s interpersonal relationships with the administration and fellow students are critically important. However, at a minimum, take a brief look at all of the candidates’ platforms, especially those you don’t know personally. How can we expect to hold our student government accountable once in office, if we don’t hold ourselves accountable in taking their elections seriously?

Note: I limited my article’s scope to those candidates whose platforms I could access through Facebook. There may be other student president candidates to consider.