‘The Big Picture’

The race for Student Government Association president and vice president two weeks ago was a veritable cornucopia of controversy and angst.

Not bad for an election that saw only 440 voters.

Both the Okular/Vrabel and the Park/Bascom parties were accused of campaign tactics that violated SGA bylaws; Justen Vrabel even cost his team 15 percent of its total votes after being caught soliciting inside of Kilcawley Center on Election Day.

If you followed the race, you may already know that some of the scandal that littered the SGA election started with me.

With only two columns left before I kick the college bucket and head toward the light of maturity, I wanted to clarify my involvement in the race for SGA president and vice president.

As opposed to last semester, I chose to focus a lot of my columns on politics. For better or worse, I am glad I did so.

Naturally, I saw the race of SGA president and vice president as a fantastic opportunity to do something that many columnists do — endorse a candidate.

So, I wrote a column endorsing Cory Okular and Justen Vrabel; in it, I was careful to cite specific sects of each team’s platform and include provoking quotes from all four men.

The column was unsettling for supporters of Robert Park and Patrick Bascom, and even more troubling for Park and Bascom themselves. I imagine that, as a mere student journalist, they felt I was sticking my nose where it didn’t belong.

But, as a columnist, it is impossible to tailor my opinions to appease everyone. Writing a column about the SGA elections without endorsing someone would’ve been a cop-out that left me with nothing but a fluff piece about why more people should vote.

Nothing about my process or the column itself was unethical or unfair. Oftentimes, the perception of a columnist is that of a storyteller. But any good opinion writer laces his or her column with evidence toward one side in an attempt to persuade and to inform.

This is all I did with the endorsement column; it was not lopsided toward one team, but, instead, offered factual evidence to strengthen my opinion and avoid being prejudicial.

It was just my opinion. Read any professional newspaper during election time, and you will see the same things.

It goes further; in early March, before any campaigning was allowed, I was approached by Park, who asked whether he and Bascom could visit my fraternity house, Alpha Phi Delta, to deliver their quick campaign spiel.

This incident casually came up in a text conversation I had with Okular, who suggested that I report it — on my own accord — to SGA President Elyse Gessler, if I felt strongly enough about the rule violation to do so.

I chose to report it; in my mind, student government is influential and important enough to be vocally concerned when those who wish to run it violate the bylaws.

It didn’t matter anyway, for when I showed up to issue my “official” complaint at the agreed upon time and location, no one was even there. I played a few rounds of Angry Birds in the SGA office in Kilcawley Center and went home.

I wasn’t even going to show up to report that grievance because it required me to get the day off work. Bascom encouraged me to attend because he felt that the SGA board, after hearing my story, would see that no rules were broken in the first place.

In retrospect, he may have been right: When Park allegedly broke the rules, he never once said I should vote for him or anything. He simply asked if, in the future, he and Bascom could come and dish about their platform.

Though it was my choice to report the incident, it was not my idea. I say this because when partnering that incident with the column I wrote endorsing Okular/Vrabel, it begins to seem as though I was bloodthirsty for Park/Bascom, and that was not the case in any way.

So, I stand by every decision I made in respect to the SGA elections. My goal was to present a clear and informative look at the candidates and offer my opinion, backed by interviews and parts of their platforms, as to whom could best take on such important positions.

Journalistic and moral integrity was in everything I did, and I sincerely that hope no one’s feelings were so devastated that they can’t see past the hurt and appreciate that I was only doing my job. 

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