Muller: SA controversy a lesson for candidates

The student court's ruling last week to hold a do-over election Sunday and Monday for contested positions on the Student Association executive board elicited a palette of outrage and thinly-veiled sarcasm on my Facebook home page.

Most decried the Vision party - senior Rebecca Coons specifically - for allegedly using a minor violation of campaign guidelines as a last-ditch way to snag the positions away from the victors.

Instead of dwelling on the motivations behind the appeal, SA candidates should use the situation to clarify their own perceptions of SA policies and procedures. It is important in situations like these to realize that technically breaking a rule does not automatically imply a flagrant disrespect for the purpose of that rule.

Forgetting a citation at the end of a paper is not the same as copy-pasting it off the Internet, cruising at ten miles over the speed limit is not the same as revving through a pre-school playground, and sloppy adherence to campaign guidelines is not the same as sabotaging the votes. Often, people with good intentions break rules, and it is not only fair but necessary to address it when it happens if that rule is expected to be enforced on other occasions in the future.

Already motions have been made to amend the election guidelines. Even if Coons' appeal turns out to be inconsequential in changing the election results, it sets a mandate for future candidates to take seriously the guidelines set forth by the elections committee and holds accountable those who are supposed to have oversight over the process.

While I don't know that any of the parties involved purposely failed to follow the specified guidelines, I hope that each has enough respect for them to either admit the errors that were made or use the situation as an opportunity to discuss the implications of stringent rules.

It is, in a way, fitting that the SA elections would be bogged down by article G clause 9 of the election guidelines. Many students in various organizations avoid using SA to get funding because they perceive it to be marked by complicated financial policy and a focus on protocol and precedent rather than case-by-case decision-making.

If left to run its probable course, I imagine that this ordeal will frustrate and disappoint those who rely on SA, and reinforce what I find to be the inaccurate assumption among students that its officers are absorbed in politics and removed from what students actually want.

The situation offers a real opportunity, though, for these candidates to use the appeal as a springboard for discussion about how using policies can, while promoting fairness and consistency, potentially deter students and organizations from even bothering to ask for SA's assistance.

Debates over the timeliness of readings, frozen budgets, receipt documentation, fundraising requirements and similar technicalities frame many business meetings to the point where being able to get a reading passed seems to be a matter of being able to anticipate and respond to interrogation questions.

Rules and procedures are, ideally, created for some meaningful reason, and they should certainly have a role in governing SA and its affairs. But now that such rules have tied up the election, whoever wins should be more than ever attentive to their impact on SA and the students it serves.

If the candidates intend to enforce SA's constitution and financial policy on student organizations that sometimes make honest mistakes, they ought not to bemoan this appeal or its consequences. u

Kevin Muller is a sophomore accounting major who's sick of the damn Facebook messages from VISION and IMAGINE. Leave him alone.