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COLUMN

Sex and Candy: The Class Elections

Ruth Miller

Even with the huge problem sets and tiny amounts of sleep some students are already combating, one can’t help but notice a few of the more colorful contributions to the Undergraduate Association campaign. From the visually engaging posters that read “We’ve got the magic stick. We’ll do wonders for you” (Dev and Mimi, Social Chairs ’04), to the much more phallic “Go Nads” (Nadjia Yousif, President ’04), or the seemingly spontaneous sexual reference in “Free yourself from bondage” (Xiaolu Ning, Treasurer ’07), there seems to be more than a few mature voters in the MIT constituency. Because no political activity would be complete without controversy, some eyebrows have been raised at the angles that some candidates are taking in their run for office.

I would like to intercede with insight from someone much wiser than myself. In an episode of Saturday Night Live during the peak of the Clinton impeachment fallout, Colin Quinn, a guest on Weekend Update, made a clear and concise statement on the state of politics and the election process. “The qualities that get you elected are the same qualities that get you laid.” With such wisdom, it’s no wonder that Colin eventually replaced Norm MacDonald as Weekend Update anchorman and now hosts his own show on Comedy Central.

Elections are not based on the qualities that determine the best elected official. Elections only test a candidate’s ability to get elected. Some voters base their decision on factors completely unrelated to the office: physical appearance, race, gender, or similar backgrounds. Elections can become surveys on the biases of a constituency, and shallow logic can arise in a private ballot booth.

Knowing this fact is what makes elections easy. If a candidate is willing to be the most adventurous or risquÉ, some level of posterity is all but ensured.

In high school, my best friend and I ran for a Student Council office every year. The scourge of our existence during election week was the kid that passed out candy. It was so cheap, and so shallow, we didn’t want to admit that the souls of our classmates could be bought so easily. We preferred less superficial and more thought-provoking methods. Our campaigns became a competition between us and the administration: who could come up with the most limiting rule and who could work around it. More than once I was threatened with suspension for using my own last name in a campaign slogan. Apparently, the powers that be didn’t want to “Have a Miller for President.” Another time we hung a giant banner over the tiny school commons area. It was one of those big, plastic banners gas stations use to advertise across highways, and led to the creation of a size limitation the next year: nothing larger than a half sheet of poster board. To circumvent that, we got to school hours before class on the day of the election to piece together a grid of letter sized sheets of paper to form an even bigger banner in the commons area. Fortunately, this year my partner in crime was able to stick it to the man and his new five poster limit with homemade T-shirts and won the election.

I digress. This all misses the point of who would do the best job in office. A little creativity never hurt anybody, and creativity in office can lead to even more interesting things. The student body will adapt and overcome whatever blasphemous or explicit things it encounters, and we all need something every now and then to catch us off guard and make us react. The beautiful part of it all is that if people get offended and want to react, they have to get involved in the system. More opinions are brought into the mix and the cycle of politics continues.

Whatever stir is created by this year’s candidates will inevitably be outdone. The antics of UA election week could become the stuff of legends. It sucks that people are shallow and that the most qualified person may not be elected. This especially sucks for the freshmen class, which hasn’t had enough time to be able to distinguish their leaders through actions rather than perverse posters and free candy. But that said, why not give into the circus that is election week? If a candidate wants to tell you what they intend to do in office, by all means listen to what they have to say. Otherwise, embrace the mayhem and vote.

Ruth Miller is a member of the Class of 2007.