An Election Under Pressure

While in the past the School President position has not been held by both genders equally, we, as a student body, should not allow this trend to affect our voting in the current election. Student council should be a merit based system—and just because it hasn’t always been in the past does not mean we need to compensate for it now. Over the past few weeks, students have given quite a lot of attention to the gender imbalance issue in student government. This wave of discussion has given rise to a compulsion to support “gender equality.” Indeed, the pressure exists to such a degree that one might simply opt to elect a female candidate to relieve the tension. However, to be ruled by this pressure would be a mistake. By voting solely to ensure gender equality, we would not necessarily produce an effective student council. The legitimacy of the President’s position, in regards to its ability to bring about change and the election process’s potential to become a popularity contest, is already in question. If, in this election or in the future, we were to allow an extremely qualified male–male presidential candidate pair to lose to a less qualified pair simply because the latter included a female, we would degrade the presidential role from its already questionable position into a figurehead post used to appease the latest social pressure. Of course, if a female–female pair or female–male pair happened to be the most qualified, then that pair should be elected to office; that’s how a meritocracy works. Generally, I feel our student body acknowledges that gender does not relate to the effectiveness of a leader in any way. With that being said, our heightened sensitivity to gender equality can actually impede our ability to see past the gender of the candidates, ultimately taking students’ attentions away from legitimate qualifications like ideas, leadership styles, ability to work with the administration and the ability to represent the student body. The question that follows is, naturally: “If female students could fulfill the presidential role just as well as males, why aren’t females being elected?” Simple: the number of female students entering the race has typically been significantly less than the number of males running [see page A8 for information]. With less female competition from the get–go, there is less of a chance for the School President elect to be female. That is where our discussions should focus: why female students have been less inclined to run, and how to address that lack of interest. Nevertheless, when exploring the causes and solutions to this general female disinterest, students and faculty alike should take care not to jeopardize the presidential role in the process. If we conclude that, for example, the current lack of female leadership creates an absence of role models for younger women, the obvious solution would be to elect some female candidates to the presidency. Such a plan, however, would degrade the position, as stated earlier. The recent change to a Co–Presidential model has been a great attempt to deal with this underlying issue; already, with five of the six final candidate pairs being of mixed gender, one can see its effect. Such legislation, which promotes a more diverse applicant pool instead of favoring one candidate because of gender or race, will cause the changes that best address the problem and appropriate for long term consequences. I applaud Student Council and the Student Council Review Committee for this change. As the final election day approaches, consider carefully your selection before you submit the ballot. By voting based on the candidates’ merit, rather than in support of the most recent social pressure, you will be setting a precedent to take Student Council seriously. Connor Goggins is a new Lower from Hillsborough, CA.