Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are two names thrown out in the media practically every single day. Each town visited and speech given is a step closer to Nov. 6, when Americans will vote on whom becomes President.
While it is more common to hear about who may or may not occupy the Oval Office, elections happen every year — on college campuses. A few college students and a recent alumnus reflect upon their own campaign trails and terms as President of their schools’ governmental body.
For Connor Daley, the plan seemed simple: run alongside someone as Vice President. That dream wasn’t unobtainable, as many people had already asked him.
But a few weeks before campaign season at The University of Vermont, he decided to drop the “vice” and run for President. Why?
The final push came from his girlfriend who told him she doesn’t date Vice Presidents.
James Roads knew early on in his college career that he’d run for office his senior year. However, that dream went from the back of his mind to the forefront after a single phone call.
At the end of his sophomore year, the then current President appointed him Vice President of Activities. Once in an executive position, the recent alumnus of Dowling College witnessed firsthand how and where he could help make a difference at the school.
In Matt Martinez’s case, he recognized that to make a difference, he’d have to rebuild the Associated Students and Faculty Government. He said the organization at Adams State University was a mess with mismanagement of the system and people not following procedures.
It became an opportunity to use the task leadership that he obtained from his four years in the Marine Corps. And others within the system agreed and approached him to run especially after he headed a sub committee of leadership in the Senate. But did he ever see himself involved in politics?
“Actually, I did not,” said Martinez and laughed.
500 undergraduate signatures — that’s how many Daley needed to be on the official ballot.
Although Daley spoke to many campus organizations, he mainly pursued his academically-oriented platform by utilizing social media.
He slyly created a Facebook group and kept it private until he had acquired around 450 members. It was made public and he watched the other candidates “scramble to do the same.” He put together a YouTube account to post campaign videos and maintained a campaign blog, all while posting to other organizations’ Facebook pages.
Roads would call his campaign “grassroots” and attributes inspiration from the Obama campaign. He sought collaboration and listened to students’ opinions all while making his face recognizable on campus. What started as simply talking to friends in student government, led to going door-to-door in the residence halls and speaking at events and in classrooms.
“It was a lot of kissing babies and shaking hands,” Roads joked.
Martinez, now a rising senior, was recently re-elected as President for his last year on campus. But, this all started to become a reality during his first campaign. He advocated his past leadership and that he’d bring something different to the table.
He said typically, most of the Presidents had dedicated three years in the Senate and by the time they got to President, it was the same people with the same process within the same system. He wanted to make sure the constitution and bylaws functioned properly and that nothing was a secret from the student body.
And the winner is…
Daley, a rising junior, is far from his days of being adamant to not be involved in student government. He started his yearlong term this past April, but, he’s now adamant that these positions and organizations are more than just being ‘involved in politics.’
“I think there should be a big line drawn between ‘being involved in politics’ and engaging in student service at college,” said Daley, a history major. “Yes, there is quite a bit of debate, handshaking and fake smiling, but at the end of the day we’re all students and it’s less about a political career or experience than it is about just helping other students.”
The message that comes along with being a politician has always resonated with Roads.
“I’ve always respected the fact that (and although not all do it) a politicians’ main job is to help the community at large,” Roads said.
Roads made that his broad goal and reached out not only to the campus, but the greater Long Island community. Some of his successes include fostering the growth of 35 new clubs after previously having 10, getting a commitment of $150,000 for a restoration of a building and reclaiming a student lounge.
He said he’s blessed that he was at an institution that sees student government as a vehicle to motivate students, unlike other institutions that have disbanded them. Ultimately, he believes it’s necessary for them to be in place to foster a connection with administration and students.
This connection was lost when Martinez came into the position. Now, he’s reclaimed a lot of the previous lost faith in the organization; he made sure that everyone feels welcome and has a voice within the meetings. Within a short period of time, he doubled the numbers, making it the largest body in about 15 years.
He believes that even if one doesn’t think student government is their calling, it’s worth giving it a shot.
“I’m a non-traditional student, who just wanted to keep my head down and get my degree and I got involved and this is probably one of the best things I have done since the Marine Corps,” he said. “…It gives you skills, it gives you confidence and makes you feel like you know what’s going on in your college.”
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