The ticket of prudence and foresight

By Daniel Stratford

Dan Stratford is an SGA senator and a Collegian columnist. Columnists’ views regarding the upcoming election are entirely their own, and do not reflect the opinion of the Daily Collegian Editorial Board.

When people think of March, three things typically come to mind: Saint Patrick’s Day, midterms and the anniversary of the untimely demise of Julius Caesar. However, there is another event that occurs over the course of three days in early-mid March – the Student Government Association’s spring elections. Though the elections themselves are not quite the cause for revelry and merry-making that Saint Patrick’s Day is, they are still a grand endeavor that will, at least for the next year, greatly affect the course of public life among students and administrators alike.

The elections this year will occur on March 8, 9 and 10, after two weeks of arduous campaigning. There are officially three tickets, comprised of the candidates for SGA president and student trustee, that are standing for election this semester, But, in the humble opinion of this columnist, only one is worthy of serious consideration by the average student – that with Dave Robertson for SGA president and Tina Kennedy for student trustee.

This column could be saturated with insipid adulation for Robertson and Kennedy, or it could be an exposition of the palpable issues that will be considered this election, and how they are best prepared to rectify them. I choose the latter approach.

Experience in politics is a priceless commodity, and this is true for all levels of government, especially student government. Faced with antagonistic administrators, monumental problems both financial and bureaucratic and a student electorate made indifferent by all of the above, the work of the elected student official is constant. From managing the SGA’s various branches to meeting with administrators and representatives from Amherst, there is simply too much to do.

Placidity is a word that simply does not appear in the SGA vocabulary. As a consequence of this, the SGA desires only the most judicious and charismatic of students in key leadership positions. Thankfully, these qualities are inherent in much of the student body at the University of Massachusetts, but it is only through the crucible of experience that they become obvious in the political context.

If experience were the Alpha and the Omega of politics, then one could confidently say that the victory of Robertson and Kennedy is assured. Robertson has been involved in the SGA since his freshman year, serving for two years as the Central Area governor and this year in the Executive Cabinet as secretary of University Policy and External Affairs. Kennedy has served for an equivalent length of time in the Senate, being chair of the Finance Committee last year. She serves as associate speaker of the Senate this year, and has had to act as speaker on several occasions, each time with the steadfastness of a true leader. Some may question the so-called “insider status” of these two candidates, but such fears are unfounded, as the true mastery of any organization originates within its own ranks. Unlike others in the SGA, they do not exploit the politics of fear and division, nor do they hesitate to decry those who attempt to count the passage of nebulous resolutions as substantial legislative achievements.

However, experience is not everything, as important as it may be. The mental clarity to solve the puzzles of today depends upon the foresight needed to predict the challenges of tomorrow. Though clarity and foresight are inextricably tied to experience, they are best reflected in a candidate’s platform. Aside from breadth of experience, it is the platform that Robertson and Kennedy have assembled that is most impressive. It is a prudent road map for the future of student life, grounded in a belief best espoused by Abraham Lincoln in his “House Divided” speech: “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.”

The substance of their platform is certainly a fitting realization of President Lincoln’s words. It includes programs in which the strained pocketbooks of students will find a kindred spirit, such as permitting the rollover of meal plan swipes from the fall semester to the spring, aiding the acquisition and dispensation of electronic textbooks and increasing funding of those groups which are the very embodiment of student life, Registered Student Organizations and student agencies.

In Robertson’s capacity as secretary of University Policy and External Affairs, he has acted as the SGA’s chief diplomat to other governmental entities, including Amherst, where he is in the process of negotiating a decrease in the burdensome $300 fine one can incur from throwing a party off-campus.

An important distinction between the Robertson-Kennedy platform and their opponents is the origin of its planks among average students. The platform itself is a vindication of our republican system – that the needs of the many can be amassed into a platform that will reflect the needs of students for years to come, executed by seasoned hands through an organization representative of those same students.
Edmund Burke once said in a speech to his constituents in Bristol that “government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment and not of inclination.”

It cannot be more firmly asserted that this philosophy of government represents the moral and pragmatic sentiment governing the SGA. It cannot be more voraciously contended that the greatest ambassadors of this worldview are Dave Robertson and Tina Kennedy. The sincerity of their platform and the adroitness and experience they will bring to bear on its execution have not only won my heart and mind – they have also won my vote.

Dan Stratford is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]