Stop ostracizing tactics in SGA electionsBy Chisolm Allenlundy | 03/01/2015 10:09pm
In 2007, researchers at Washington State University published a paper uncovering a previously-ignored factor that influenced people’s voting patterns: social isolation and loneliness. In their research, they found that not only do voters who identify as lonelier than the average population tend to vote less often, they are also more likely to vote for a certain candidate simply because a group with which they wish to connect supports that candidate. This phenomenon has been thought to explain why new Americans often vote for the candidate who is most highly supported in their neighborhood, even if that candidate’s views do not closely reflect their own.
I can personally relate myself to this study. In SGA elections in middle and high school, I often found myself voting for the stereotypically popular candidate, the one who was part of the “in group,” because as a teenager I often felt insecure about my own level of popularity. Some strange and misguided part of me felt that if I privately voted for this person – even if I never told anyone – it would make this group of kids like me more. Call it what you want, but I just wanted to be accepted in an environment that simply wasn’t always conducive to that.
As it turns out for many people, SGA elections at the University are no different, particularly within the Greek system. This is absolutely not to say that Greek students are less willed to be free thinkers, but the Greek system has a much more historically compelling interest in student government than non-Greek students, which is why they are so highly represented.
Unfortunately, this has produced a climate that in many ways leverages social isolation and ostracism as means of campaigning for particular candidates. Perhaps we should not so much be worried about the instances of students being literally forced to vote for a candidate as much as the instances of students facing such ceremonious excommunication. This loneliness is something all people truly fear, and for good reason: suicide is often referred to as a “crime of loneliness.”
It goes without saying that there is a certain expectation in many Greek houses to support a particular group of candidates. Those individuals who deviate from that course, either because they genuinely support a different candidate or because they simply don’t appreciate being arbitrarily told what to do, have often been bullied and harassed within their own houses. A quick skim through submitted drop forms over the past year will likely be more than enough evidence of that fact.
I say all that to say this: bullying, harassment and systematic social ostracism are all things we learned were immature and wrong a long time ago. That said, they are tried-and-true tactics of SGA politics in independent circles as well as Greek ones. If the University wants to promote a campaign season that is both fair and protects the well being of all students, it should make genuine efforts to discourage that type of petty behavior. But more importantly, students themselves must work to ensure that social isolation is not used as a weapon or campaign tool against others and if it is, it is reported appropriately. Complaints can be sent to email@example.com, which maintains a complete right to anonymity. Students’ voting habits should not define their worth as friends and individuals, either in the SGA or elsewhere. At the end of the day, it’s no one’s business but your own.
Chisolm Allenlundy is a junior majoring in philosophy and economics. His column runs weekly.