With the Minnesota Student Association and various other student governments on campus holding elections in the next month, it’s likely that many student groups will be faced with the decision to endorse a candidate. Student group endorsements are vital to the election process, a principle conduit for student engagement on the campus community, and provide avenues for students of variable interests to engage with their peers. As a consequence, student group endorsements, especially the student groups that represent an important component to the campus, should not be taken lightly.
We believe that student groups ought to follow a methodological and rigorous process to identify the candidate that best aligns with their values. This rigorous process should involve a discussion with the entire student body of the group, and not simply the one or two few leaders that are on the student board. This is important, because after all, the student group represents the opinion of the entire organization with their endorsement. Ensuring that the integrity of the process is maintained will help increase the strength and the weight of the nomination, and we believe that this should be the main objective of any group seeking to endorse.
Our Board plans to undergo this process ourselves. We recently reached out to all the candidates, and will be meeting with them in the upcoming weeks. During these interviews, we will ask challenging questions that test the candidates' knowledge about the University campus, as well as their plans to improve it for the future. From these interviews and the platforms of the candidates, we intend to endorse a candidate that we believe will best achieve our vision for what direction the campus will be heading.
Too often, student group leaders will rely on personal friendships and individual networks to endorse candidates. While networks do matter, we believe that familiarity should not be the highest weighted parameter in determining whether the candidate is deserving of their vote. It should be based on the merits of their platform, their plan for executing their campaign promises, the pragmatism shown on student issues and an alignment with group values.
Some might argue that endorsements are usually sought after by candidates. In conversation with some student group leaders, some argued that they provided the endorsement to whichever candidate approached them first, taking the time and effort to meet with them and provide them a concrete presentation of campaign ideas. This thought process subverts the responsibility of the student group leaders in the election process. If the student body is not run effectively and appropriately, it has a direct impact on student groups and their ability to advocate for the students at the University of Minnesota. Student groups cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility to engage in the election process.
For this reason, we believe that student groups interested in endorsing candidates should reach out to all candidates and meet with them, asking challenging questions that interrogate their plans to make our University better. Through a more meticulous process, the value and impact of a student group endorsement will increase.