Campaign Connections

According to the regulations of the Student Government Constitution, in order to qualify as candidates in the 2014-2015 Co-Presidential Elections, pairs of Uppers must gather the “consent” of nearly half the student population at Andover. While many students are eager to support them in this endeavor, the lack of sincere interaction between the Co-Presidential candidates and younger students impairs us from judging them purely based upon ability. As a Junior at Andover, I feel that I do not actually know any of the Co-Presidential candidates well enough to vote for them. Especially considering the fact that most of my classes are comprised of only fellow Juniors or Lowers, opportunities to establish genuine connections with older students are limited. As a result, whenever candidates have asked me to sign their books, I have done so more out of respect for their ambitions than anything else. Some Co-Presidential candidates have even approached me more than once, apparently forgetting that they had already elucidated the purpose of their campaign and previously asked for my signature. This disconnect between voters and candidates would be problematic in any form of government, but at Andover, it may even account for the lack of diversity our student leadership has seen in the past. When students at Andover vote for a candidate with little to no knowledge of his or her character or personal convictions, it is possible that our assessments of their capabilities have been unconsciously influenced by our pre-existing notions of how a leader should look and act. And in a nation where the first U.S. President of color was elected in 2008 and not a single female President has been elected to this day, the default image of leadership is frequently that of a white male. This unintentional skewing of Andover’s opinion of leadership would account for the fact that, despite a 54.6 percent female majority in the student population, 90 percent of all school Presidents since 1973 have been male. It might also shed some light on why over 70 percent of these Presidents, proudly chosen to lead Andover’s “Youth From Every Quarter,” have been Caucasian, according to the March 8, 2013 issue of The Phillipian. If a concrete bond between Co-Presidential candidates and the student body can be formed, students will become more capable of analyzing Co-Presidents based purely on their capabilities, and this will in turn limit the detrimental effects of subconscious bias. The Andover community contains 1,129 students in total, so it may be impractical for the Co-President pairs to meet each student individually, but at the very least, they should be able to communicate effectively with us. With the creation of an online discussion board, Co-Presidents would be able to introduce themselves more clearly and explain their campaign to the entire student body. Students in turn would be able to ask more questions in response to what the Co-Presidents have posted. In contrast to the short one-minute meetings Co-Presidents have with half the student population while collecting signatures, an online forum would allow continuous interaction between all candidates and students at Andover. Each Co-Presidential pair could write about their personal experiences on the discussion board, similar to CAMD’s “Out of the Blue,” which will help the students relate to the candidates more easily. Finally, instead of commencing the election process in mid-February and allowing only the top two teams to speak in front of the entire school, every pair of candidates should be given a chance to publicly represent themselves before the student body, which would hopefully encourage voters to participate more actively in the entire election process. Before opening the vote polls, we must allow students to develop a fuller understanding of the values, personalities and abilities present in each of the candidates running for the election. This way, many more students would be able to vote carefully, and the undertaking would be inclusive of all candidates, no matter their race or gender. By getting to know each other better, Andover can develop into an even more accepting community.