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Why we need more than one week to campaign for SGA elections

On Monday, March 24, SGA candidates began the tradition of wooing students for their hand in political matrimony: campaigning. And on Monday, March 31, the polls will open and students will begin to cast their votes. This leaves candidates with one fleeting week to not only introduce themselves to us but also attempt to influence our decision-making. One week is not enough.

To understand why candidates need more time to campaign, we must first have an appreciation for a right we have been given but other people have to fight for. Political campaigns (or electoral campaigns) are the blood of a democratic body. Democracy is derived from the Greek word “dēmokratía” which means “rule of the people,” or, in our case, “rule of the student body.” Among our many rights and liberties as students and American citizens is our right to elect our representatives and leaders, a right that not every student around the world shares.

On Wednesday, March 19, at least two students of Cairo University in Egypt were shot and killed during one of several student-led protests in universities across Egypt displaying disapproval of interim President Adly Mansour. These students, together forming SAC (Students Against the Coup) hope for the removal of Mansour and the reinstatement of Mohammad Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected and civilian president. Mursi was imprisoned by the military and currently awaits trial.

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As a result of the ongoing protest, which includes tear gas, fireworks and stone-throwing, the current semester at Cairo University was delayed a month. Wednesday’s protest also resulted in the expulsion of 23 students who were cited for violence and vandalism. This continual vie for rights (or the lack thereof) and principle has resulted in over a thousand deaths and thousands more jailed. Yet students of Egyptian universities continue to risk their lives for the privilege.

Democracy should not be taken for granted. The key to democracy is the right to vote, the right to be heard. Even more important than the right to vote is the opportunity to vote. Many countries, like Egypt, have struggled for this opportunity. Campaigns are an integral part of this opportunity. They not only allow the candidates to be heard, but the voter’s voice as well by the candidate. Stones and tear gas should not have to be thrown in order for a someone to be heard. Thankfully, you don’t have to take up such actions.

There are also more concrete reasons and less sentimental ones for extended campaign time, most notably: money.

What some of you may not know is that the mandatory Student Activity Fee you pay every semester pays for SGA stipends. The fee, which provides your SGA president, executive vice president, and several other positions, with a monthly stipend for an entire year. The fee also pays for programs and services provided to students (by students), like this very column you’re reading.

Like SGA officials, I aim to “give you your money’s worth.” At a minimum, this means providing the student with everything they’d expect from the program or service. Students should expect a lot more than a week (really five days) of sheer campaigning. Our money is worth more than a handful of printed flyers and some Duncan Hines persuasion in the Plaza.

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A little more effort on the candidate’s part to take advantage of the campaign process is not only the voter’s benefit. In fact, it is equally advantageous to the candidate. A candidate is a product. They’ve thrown themselves on the market, in the crowd of us, hungry student voters, who are shopping for someone who cares about our concerns. They’re not the only product on the market, but feel that they’re the best one. The candidate should have an ample amount of time to convince us of this.

While candidates aren’t in the arena fighting for a chance to be the world’s most powerful leader, they could learn a little from our country’s past presidential campaigns, notably the races for the 2008 and 2012 presidential seats.

“Mitt,” a Netflix production and new release, is a candid documentary that follows the exhausted campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney lost the Republican candidate ticket to McCain for the 2008 race but later won the candidate ticket for the 2012 race.

The film provides a raw and organic look into the ups and down of campaigning. Romney’s campaign began two years prior to the first election. While the race for the president of the United States is a whole different ball game, with different rules and referees, Romney’s campaign should be noted for both its success and failure.

In an interview on The Today Show with Matt Lauer during his first campaign, Romney was hit with this statement from Lauer:

“Forty-three percent of Americans are not even sure who you are.”

Romney scrambled for a reply to this and followed up with an uncomfortable chuckle. How many of us can say that we are sure of who the SGA candidates are? What they believe in? What their goals are? What their principles are? Or, what their names are? If you could answer any of these, did you know the answer before you checked the news section of this paper? Every candidate should take the appropriate time to make sure that each of us can answer these questions.

Preceding the interview, Romney’s campaign ventured out across the country in hopes of what he called “building a brand.”

“People will know me. They’ll know what I stand for,” he said.

Fortunately, candidates don’t have to spend millions going from state to state to build a brand. They simply have to go classroom to classroom, organization to organization, door to door, face to face. And between schedule conflicts and just the sheer colossal size of our student body, one week is not enough time to build a brand.

One week doesn’t allow space for every ingredient of a fruitful campaign, either. These ingredients include debates, forums, interviews and speeches. There’s only one debate scheduled during the week of campaigning. Debates and especially forums where students can engage with the candidate are vital to the electoral campaign. The results of these platforms can have drastic benefits for both the voter and the candidate. Following the Fox Republican Presidential Candidates Forum, almost 80 percent more audience members claimed their support for Romney.

A few more additional weeks, months, or even a semesters time can be extremely beneficial to the candidate, the voter and to our electoral process. This will not only widen the channel of communication between voter and candidate but between student and government. Student and candidate alike, we all deserve to be heard, void of time constraints. We deserve a chance to voice our concerns and opinions without someone saying “cue the music and curtains.”

For many students in Egypt, that voice has been silenced. Your voice hasn’t. This is why the campaign element of democracy should be revered and students and candidates alike should fully immerse themselves in it. One week to do so, in the light of its significance, doesn’t seem fitting.