Student Council Shortens Presidential Campaign and Enforces Spending Limits; First Round of Voting To Start On Monday

Students can say goodbye to free food and candy from this year’s School Presidential candidates. Students running for School President now face a shorter campaign period and stricter spending limits. Student Council decided to shorten the election period by one week because last year, “we felt that it lingered for too long and began to take away from the quality of our school work,” said Malin Adams ’09, School President. This year, the presidential race will consist of three rounds of voting, down from last year’s four rounds. The first round will be on Monday and will narrow the number of candidates to six. Candidates also have a $50 budget limitation on campaigning materials, mostly posters, said Adams. They are also not allowed to acquire sponsorships of any kind. Adams said, “We wanted to make it easier on the candidates. Those who really want to be School President will campaign strongly for the shortened period and quickly establish themselves as serious competition.” He added, “Campaigning this year is very much more controlled.” Adams said that his only worry is that the shorter campaign process this year might be too rigid. The addition of a video project is one of the major changes in this year’s election process. Each candidate was asked to record a personal video in the Polk Center, which will be posted online for voters to view. Adams said, “The video becomes important because after many weeks of campaigning, someone might not remember some of the candidates’ names.” Many candidates expect that the new policies established by Student Council will have a positive effect on the campaigning process. Instead of basing a campaign around the size of their posters or amount of money spent on merchandise, many candidates are focusing their campaigns around strong ideas and meeting students. Jane Thomas ’10 said, “This year, we can’t put up huge pictures and posters and, thankfully, this forces campaigns to be [more] about ideas.” She continued, “I’m really glad that there was a spending limit. It makes the competition more fair.” Eric Sirakian ’10, a current Student Council representative for the Upper class, agreed. Sirakian said, “I’m fine with it. I think limiting people a little bit will emphasize what really matters: reaching out to the student body and making a statement. Right now I’m focusing on meeting as many people as possible.” He continued, “This year, it’s not about who has the biggest poster; it’s about who has the best poster. And I think as a result, the candidates are taking more time to seriously consider the possibilities and responsibilities of this job.” Tyler Jennings ’10 said that he thinks the budget restrictions for candidates are both good and bad. He said that the budget “levels the playing field so the presidential race just doesn’t strictly turn into a popularity contest. It allows people to vote based on whom they think will be the best candidate, not who has the coolest t-shirts or buttons.” “However, I think that if you can go out and really put on a stellar campaign with a little bit of money, it shows some dedication to the job and a certain resourcefulness that I think is really necessary for a president,” added Jennings. Khalid McCaskill ’10 said that he approved of the spending limit. He said, “Some people are not willing to spend as much money as others, and money should not be a factor in the race.” “It’s important to find a balance between a campaign based solely on the amount of money spent and a campaign based on genuine ideas and cleverness,” said Adams. The budget cuts have also compelled candidates to develop unique ideas for their platforms. McCaskill said one of his major plans is “an integrated day student parking in the Gelb and Stuart parking lots.” He continued, “A second proposal is the acceptance of 9:30 sign-in on weeknights, only on the basis that weekend sign-in will be extended.” Thomas said, “One of my ideas is to encourage Commons workers to operate a manual can crusher. The Lawrenceville School purchased one and saved over $40,000.” Sirakian said, “I feel very strongly about reforming the Student Council format and changing the way in which students view Student Council.” He continued, “My best idea is to involve all kinds of student leaders in our weekly meetings by inviting different people to join us for our discussions. Student Council needs to become a community forum, not just a club of [elected] representatives.” Sirakian also proposed the idea of a “Senior speaker,” in which the Senior class would choose the final All-School Meeting speaker of the year. Candidates also must consider how these ideas might actually be implemented if they were elected School President. Jennings said, “I try [to] think about being realistic. As much as I wish there could be unlimited day student parking spots and gourmet meals 100 percent of the time in Commons, it just probably won’t happen.” He continued, “I think that a key thing to catching peoples’ attention is presenting some solutions to problems that can actually be solved.” Sirakian said, “I crossed out many items on [my] list that simply didn’t sound right. I hate unkept promises. The Senior speaker idea is a good example of an ambitious plan that will take a lot of planning but will ultimately get done.”