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Ever since the Student Council became a popularly-elected body two years ago, the College's political idealists have been hovering anxiously around the ballot boxes, hoping to see democracy vindicated. The student vote would bring in topnotch men, the idealists ventured, and with a real mandate, these democratic Councils would do a better job than had their predecessors under the appointive system. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Not only has student interest in Council activities failed to show any appreciable upswing, but the voters themselves have exhibited a mighty disregard for the blessings of the secret ballot.
The results have been just about what anyone could expect. Some good Councilmen took office,--and there were some that could have been much better. Consequently, Council operations suffered lapses, and because of these mistakes--which often gained more attention than the fine jobs Councils have done--many potential candidates shied away, or lost what interest they may have had in Council work.
The problem of arousing the voters' interest is a particularly difficult one at Harvard. Council labors are, for the most part, hardly of the type that catch the imagination; Councilmen and candidates for office have been understandably squeamish about making a lot of noise about issues or their own qualifications for office. It has been a pretty sober affair, as undergraduates who voted last Thursday--or who didn't take the trouble to vote--can testify.
In the past, lively campaigning has been frowned on, because many Councilmen were afraid that elections would degenerate into orgies of pure ballyhoo, featuring everything from strip-teasers to stunts in the Applegate tradition. Vigorous electioneering, however, would appear to be the only method of awakening the latent undergraduate interest in Council activities. Campaigns for the Student Council need no more be extravagant than dull, or non-existent. Voters would probably be more inclined to favor a candidate who runs on his record and takes stands on issues than a man who swallows goldfish or chalks his name on College buildings. And, due to the exacting nature of Council work, stunt artists will be wary of the responsibilities of election anyway, even assuming that a majority of voters want them in office.
The Council should encourage intelligent campaigning, which can be easily carried on within the present limit on expenses. The Council should also urge that the friends of qualified men run such campaigns, since many excellent candidates are reluctant to go out and stump for votes. It is vitally important to stir up student interest in the Council, and to get the best men in office through sensible and thorough campaigns. Electioneering is surely worth a test; the tacit policy of leaving the voter alone has been tried and found distinctly wanting.
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