SGA campaign platforms promise change

The campus voted for Student Government Association leadership Tuesday night. The new administration will take over April 5, and they will be responsible to stay true to their campaign promises.

What these goals will look like in practice will remain a mystery until they take office.

Platform goals can be difficult for voters to decipher, said Chelle Lyons Hanson, assistant dean of student leadership and service.

“It’s hard for students to pick that apart,” Lyons Hanson said. “Even as candidates, it’s sometimes difficult to see that issues are more complex than they appear.”

Lyons Hanson advises the executive team for SGA and helps candidates develop their platforms.

“I encourage teams not to make promises they can’t keep,” she said. “I really encourage candidates to talk to people who have some role to play in policy changes.”

Bruce Vieweg, interim dean of students and associate provost, said many of the candidates do not know the cost of the changes they want to propose.

“When we’re proposing big changes, it involves very large sums of money,” Vieweg said.

 Vieweg used parking as an example. While parking is an issue on campus, building a new parking lot or a ramp would be an expensive option. A new parking lot would cost $5000 per parking space; a new ramp would cost $15,000 per space. While SGA can propose large changes, it cannot commit college funds toward any of the proposed initiatives.In general, SGA’s role is to bring student concerns into discussion with college administration. The administration has the responsibility to make policy changes, Lyons Hanson said.SGA does have power, however, to start initiatives and programs with its own budget. The sustainability fund built into this year’s SGA budget allowed students to have a say in what sustainability looks like at Concordia, Lyons Hanson said.

Recently, SGA used its own power to support student research and fund a new journal. The Lights Out campaign, an initiative to turn off lights on vending machines, is nearly complete. It required no additional funds from either SGA or the college itself.

Kirsten Theye, assistant professor of communication studies, said campaign platforms are problematic in every campaign.

“In general, in all elections, candidates often promote a platform that is not within their power to achieve,” Theye said. “This is something that is not unique for college elections. You talk about what you hope to achieve and align with voters’ values.”

Theye said there would be little to talk about if candidates only discuss issues that are within their control. In presidential elections, candidates often build platforms on issues that require action from Congress. But the key is that the candidates show their constituents that they hear their concerns.

“What they can say is that they hear students, and they can work to make sure the administration hears their concerns,” Theye said.

Current SGA President Tyler Dugger said candidates should set high platform goals.

“They are overreaching,” Dugger said. “They should be stretching. Don’t set a mediocre goal.”

While there is no guarantee what putting a platform into focus will look like, Dugger believes that there is great potential for SGA to make progress on many issues.

“There is no reason to assume that accomplishments can’t be made,” Dugger said.

Vieweg said he has faith in each of the candidates, regardless of their platform goals.

“We can’t go wrong with whoever is elected,” Vieweg said. “All four teams are dynamite.”

For an interview with the 2012-13 SGA election winners, Meg Henrickson and Collin Sullivan, click here.

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