Written By Niklas Hess (Former SG Academics Officer and Vice - President 2018-2019)
The Student Government elections are a yearly spectacle that allows some people to envision their ideal University, others to discover all of the flaws that they never thought about and again others to realize that they have no clue about what is going on.
The last category is the one that I am most concerned about. Going to IE University means more than going to class, it means being part of a community. The Student Government is an integral part of said community and every student should be well informed about it. Therefore, I will take this opportunity to explain to you what the Student Government does, why you should vote, how you should vote, and finally why the current elections are seriously problematic.
But let’s start with the basics, do you really know what the Student Government does?
During the 2018/2019 academic year, I was the vice-president of the IEU Student Government and one of our main concerns was to create stringent bylaws that define very clearly the structure and tasks that the SG should do. While I won’t bore you with the structural specifics, it is important to understand that there are 3 pillars to the SGs work.
First, and arguably most importantly, the SG is the connection between the students and the administration. This does not mean that they are biased towards one side, but instead the SG should be a transmitter of messages in both directions. A great example is the current SMOWL debate: It would be the Student Governments task to explain to the student body why the administration adopts the use of SMOWL (which believe it or not they have put a lot of thought into it) and on the other hand to inform the administration about the data protection concerns students have.
As a second pillar, the SG is there to represent the interests of the student. This aspect most people understand and all teams currently trying to get elected are almost exclusively focusing on it. However, I am sorry to disappoint, but this part of the SG work is probably the smallest one. While a good SG does present a regular stream of proposals and constantly fights for changes to happen, one has to acknowledge that change at IE is not happening from the bottom up, but from the top down. And against common perception, this is nothing negative. IE is a business with an ever more complex structure supporting it, capable people making decisions and a long-term plan in mind. While IE isn’t perfect and change is the key to its future success, many of the changes proposed by the general student body are either not feasible, not beneficial upon closer consideration or more complex than one is directly able to fathom.
The last pillar of the SG work concerns certain basic tasks that most Students take for granted. This includes work in areas such as the Spring ball, the fresher’s week, the ethics committee and the exchange list. Many of these tasks the general student body does not see or takes for granted, but they probably make up the largest part of the work.
Now that you know what your Student Government actually does, it is probably also quite clear why you should vote. But to make sure we are all on the same page, let me lay it out. Voting is key to make sure that these tasks are not conducted by an unpassionate and incapable group of people. The more votes casted, the higher the chance that instead of popularity voting skewing the final result in favor of a specific team, the best team actually wins.
However, more important than knowing why you should vote is knowing how you should vote. PRACTICE INFORMED VOTING! This very basic idea doesn’t only apply to our small sphere of student government elections, but to any election, you will take part in throughout your life. Unfortunately, it seems that at IE University, just like across the world, informed voting is a rare phenomenon. While I could now start explaining the political and philosophical reasons for practicing informed voting, I will not bore you any further. However, before you cast your vote in the current elections, take a look at each team and try to understand:
Are their proposals actually feasible? (if they seem very obvious, best believe past Student Governments have unsuccessfully tried over and over to make them happen)
Are they actually in the best interest of the whole University?
Did the corresponding team actually consider all three aspects of the SG work?
Now finally, this would probably be more of an informative paper if I didn’t add a little personal opinion. So, let me give you a little glimpse at what I believe is clearly going wrong during this year’s elections.
First, more than half of the promises put forward by the individual teams are straight-up impossible to ever become reality and clearly show how uninformed and detached from reality some of the teams are. It appears to me that instead of asking themselves what changes would be novel, useful, and plausible, some teams thought about what most people would find an exciting enough idea to convince them to vote in their favor.
Second, the campaigning of some of the teams, unfortunately, has a very populist feeling to it. Being in a diverse and educated environment, I am very disappointed and to a certain degree ashamed that such slogans and publicity tricks are being used. I can only attribute them to teams not taking the election seriously or even worse, not grasping what populist agendas entail and cause. So, for anyone still casting their vote, any such slogans or agendas should be an absolute red flag! Or would you like such a way of thinking to represent you and your institution?
Third, I am disappointed at the lack of respect brought forward towards previous SG years. Obviously, not every member of every Student Government is equally committed or passionate about the job, but I can guarantee you that every SG has some members that care about more than just another line in their CV. So before attacking anyone’s integrity, why not inform yourself first, understand what has been attempted and accomplished, and show some respect for the work that those people have done for you.
I truly hope that this article helped to better understand our Student Government and motivated you to take a few minutes of your day to get informed and to subsequently cast a vote.