In this the season of student group executive board elections, a disturbing electoral practice has attracted my attention: the act of “dropping down.” You know how it goes: someone runs for a position on an executive board, loses, and then drops down to run for a lower position instead. Strangely, no one ever stops to consider what sort of a statement they’re actually making when they exercise this right (which is usually permitted by the student group’s constitution).
I mean, think about it—essentially what they’re saying is, “Hi, my name is Joe Smith, and I’m running for the position of Secretary. I’ve got many great ideas for things to do as Secretary, I have all the requisite skills, and I’m very, very passionate about being Sec—oh wait…Oh I lost? Okay. Hi, my name is Joe Smith, and I’m running for the position of Alumni Representative. I’m very, very passionate…” You get the picture. And candidates who do this genuinely expect to be—and strangely sometimes actually are—taken seriously.
The message they’re sending is insulting to the other candidates and to the membership at large, in addition to just making them look really, really desperate. Dropping down portrays the position dropped into as a sort of consolation prize for the dropper’s thwarted political dreams, and what’s worse, it denigrates the efforts of those who were running for the position from the start.
What’s most offensive is when a candidate drops from one position into another that has absolutely nothing to do with it—like dropping from Treasurer to Social Chair. The candidates originally running for Social Chair likely spent days learning about the position, agonizing over position papers and speeches, and genuinely trying to create fresh and exciting ideas for the coming year. It’s not a stretch to say they are generally more informed and more passionate about the position than any former, losing Treasurer candidate. In dropping down, people get in the way of the most prepared and enthusiastic candidate being elected. So how much do they really care about the membership?
In actuality, it appears as if their real concern is simply getting onto the board, somehow, some way, without regard to a particular position or to their actual ability to do the best possible job. You could attribute this to their extreme passion about the organization as a whole and their eagerness to contribute to it in some capacity—but cynical student group members (and even less cynical ones like myself) are more likely to see the candidate as being extremely passionate about the appearance of power, and being eager to contribute to his or her résumé.
Hopefully in most cases, the membership of a student group will be thoughtful enough to see through drop-downers’ performances, and will vote for candidates who actually want the contested position. But on the off chance that they don’t, this non-constructive practice should be “dropped down” off of student group constitutions—in fairness to other candidates and, most importantly, for the sake of the people they’re supposed to represent.
Ashton R. Lattimore ’08, an editorial comper, lives in Wigglesworth Hall.