After a few weeks of living on a college campus for our first time, talk of the Vassar Student Association started to circulate around the freshmen. I had seen the president of the VSA when she swung by our House meeting, and I saw their names painted on the windows of the College Center, but I didn’t really know what they did, and I had no idea that freshmen could participate.
Coming on almost a month of officially being a student at Vassar, I have met a huge number of new people. Every time I sit down in class or ride the elevator, I see a new face and try to remember a new name, but there are still so many I haven’t seen. Of all the freshmen here, not even including other classes, I know a small percentage of people.
As VSA elections approach and the filing process has ended, students have begun to campaign through many different means. Facebook is a big way that students are trying to get votes, posting in the Admitted Students page, House pages, club pages and multiple Facebook statuses. I am nowhere near being Facebook friends with the entire freshman class, but even of the campaign posts I have seen, barely any of them have I met in person.
Freshman candidates have offered free hot chocolate outside the library, walked around campus with free candy, visited houses with cookies and brownies and flaunted their past accomplishments. While all these things are nice, what am I supposed to base my votes on besides abundance of free food? In the case of most of these people, I have never seen them face-to-face, let alone heard what they want to do for our campus.
A few have offered a few hours of their time for you to swing by and have your questions answered relating to their hopes in serving our campus. Admittedly, I have homework to do or am too lazy to leave my spot in the library to meet the candidates and speak with them. There needs to be a better method for election campaigns so that freshmen can base their decisions off things other than looks, popularity or free cookies.
One option would be to hold freshman elections in the second semester. This way, they would still have an entire semester to work with the VSA, but we could all get to know each other a little better before making our decisions. Also, the candidates themselves would be better able to understand Vassar students’ issues if they had more time to learn the campus. Another option would be to hold one event where students could listen to a candidate’s speech and learn more about the objectives. Holding hours in the retreat or visiting houses is a good idea for candidates, but it still doesn’t allow them to reach everyone and is less convenient. Lastly, if students didn’t want to attend an event to learn about the candidates, it would be really helpful to run some sort of publication about the candidates. Whether a special edition of The Miscellany News or its own pamphlet, candidates could write a blurb about their goals and plans to make their message clear.
I attended the VSA Freshman Debate on Monday night, and it actually served as a useful forum for candidates to voice their ideas and opinions in an organized manner. Those who attended the debate had the opportunity to ask questions, and in return candidates shared their qualifications as well as their ideas for things such as communicating with freshmen once they are president. While this was a great way to get to know the candidates, only a small percentage of the freshman class attended the debate. The rest missed out on being able to make an informed decision come voting time.
Because I’ve been asking a lot of people about different things associated with the VSA elections, I heard that there are write-ups from the candidates available on the VSA’s website. Keep in mind, I only became aware of this because I told my friends I would be writing an article about the elections. When I went to the VSA website to find these write-ups, it took a little searching and a few clicks until I arrived at the page for the candidates. The election is a very current and important event, so the candidates page should be front and center on the VSA website.
For my first semester at Vassar, I really want to be active in our community and contribute to the decision of who will help lead the freshmen class. It’s easy to get to know the people running for house representative because they are right in my building. For the people from other parts of campus running for positions like president of the freshmen class, I have no idea who they are or what they stand for. I believe you can’t complain about certain issues on campus if you don’t vote for president, and you can’t vote for president if you don’t know the candidates and understand their goals. It would be a mistake to choose a spokesperson for our class based only on who gave out the best free food or had the best campaign pictures on Facebook. If a slightly different method were implemented, freshmen could get more educated on who they want to represent them.
—Sarah Sandler ’18 is undeclared.