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Observer Editorial: Send a message, demand a choice

Observer Editorial Board | Monday, February 6, 2012


In this unusual election with just one unopposed ticket, The Observer’s annual task of interviewing candidates and endorsing one ticket seemed futile.

In fact, so does this election.

Without opposing candidacies or even accepted write-in ballots, current student body vice president Brett Rocheleau and vice presidential hopeful Katie Rose will win Wednesday’s election simply by voting themselves. So why interview the pair and write the annual endorsement editorial?

Because as the student body, we deserve a choice.

While we may not have a choice between tickets, we do have a choice to abstain. The majority of The Observer’s Editorial Board agreed not to endorse the Rocheleau-Rose ticket and instead encourages the student body to abstain in Wednesday’s election. Make no mistake, abstaining is an active decision. It still requires opening the ballot and recording your presence.

It is quite possible Rocheleau and Rose are indeed the best candidates. But how can the student body know this without comparing their plans and ideas to those of another candidate?

While choosing to check “abstain” will not change the course of the election, a large cohort of “abstain” votes would serve as a needed wake-up call to student government.

It would send the message that the student body will not accept a ticket simply because it is the only ticket.

It would send the message that Rocheleau and Rose still need to be held accountable to their constituents. 

It would send the message that as the student body, we deserve a choice.

Rocheleau and Rose said several people within student government expressed interest in running for president or vice president, but all agreed on a unified vision for student government in the next year. Rocheleau and Rose were chosen to represent that vision.

Just like that, the decision was made for the student body, not by the student body. Even if the majority of the student body is behind the vision student government sets out to achieve, students should get the opportunity to vote for whom they think will best represent and promote that vision.  

Furthermore, it is hard to believe such unanimous agreement about student government’s approach and priorities exists amongst all members. If, however, agreement truly is pervasive, this suggests a herd-like mentality not conducive to innovation and forward progress. If disagreement exists, what is going on behind the scenes to suppress the opposition? Either way, these questions point to a potentially disturbing backdrop from which the president and vice president hopefuls will enter office.  

And yet, whether we like it or not, Rocheleau and Rose will represent the student body come April 1, with the goal of advancing the vision of the current administration. Their platform is detailed and structured, however, some ideas are more feasible and beneficial than others. 

The platform includes some practical initiatives that will better the daily lives of the student body. For example, the pair wants to put printers in every building on campus and make residence halls “greener” by installing hydration stations and efficient hand dryers. These ideas are good and can likely be accomplished.

However, some larger scale ideas are both impractical and ineffective. 

The pair wants to bring a specialty grocery store — such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market — to Eddy Street Commons to improve relations with the South Bend community. 

But students and residents will not be able to form meaningful, long-term relationships simply by shopping at the same store. Furthermore, students already know the residents who would shop at an expensive grocery store — professors and students’ parents. We need to reach out to the community as a whole and move beyond the wealth disparity that is perceived to exist between Notre Dame students and South Bend as a whole. 

Rocheleau and Rose’s campaign also includes goals past student government administrations have attempted. Adding sexual orientation to the University’s non-discrimination clause and setting up Domer Dollars off campus are worthy causes, but why will this ticket succeed where previous administrations have tried and failed?

The Observer’s Editorial Board can see merit in Rocheleau and Rose’s ideas, and Rocheleau’s connections from his current term as vice president will be helpful in facilitating many of these initiatives. However, their platform is far from perfect. 

Rocheleau and Rose are the only candidates for student body president and vice president. But are they the best candidates? 

Without competition, we can’t know. That is why we, the members of The Observer’s Editorial Board, cannot endorse Brett Rocheleau and Katie Rose for Notre Dame’s student body president and vice president.  

Instead, come Wednesday’s election, we endorse abstaining. 

Send a message. 

Choose to demand a choice.