“Vote for me! I’ll make your whites whiter and your brights brighter!”

Campaign sites for James Madison University student government elections, 2003

This past week, I was made aware of two things. First of all, I was made aware that there even was a campaign going on, and secondly, I was passed along the Web addresses of the candidates, where they had their campaigns online. This year, the SGA (Student Government Association) will be holding their elections online, and also this year the candidates have gone online to an extreme. I never thought that student government elections were that serious in the first place. The issues are usually mostly “vanity” issues, like getting the latest brand of super-caffeinated soda in the vending machines or something like that. This year, I don’t know if it’s because I’m a senior or what have you, but I’m looking at all these campaigns and I’m really getting a kick out of it. First of all, a good amount of the candidates registered their own domain names for their campaigns. All of these domains were registered under the .com suffix, which implies that they’re a commercial entity. While it’s true that money talks, I don’t think “commercial” is the image I’d like to project as a candidate for office. If these campaigns even warrant a domain name in the first place (I think that a site on JMU’s Falcon server or one on Geocities is sufficient), they would be properly located at .org (organizations) or .info (information/miscellaneous). I’d even recommend registering under .name, in order to concentrate on name recognition. Then of course, what are we going to do with these domains after April 3, the day of the election? Of the four sites showcased here, only two have domains that could be considered useful afterwards – jennybrockwell.com and gotnido.com. These could easily be converted into personal Web sites, or in Jenny Brockwell’s case, perhaps a professional Web site one day. On the other two, levar4president.com and votejmu2003.com, I fully expect to see one of two things when the domain names expire. I expect to see either an adult Web site at the domains, or I expect to see one of those cheesy domain-harvesting search engines on them.

"Dream Team" ticket, 2003Regarding the issues themselves, some of them are downright nutty. Lyndsey Walther-Thomas of votejmu2003.com wants to “Create a resource center within SGA office that will allow students to come to find information and resources about any aspect of campus life,” conveniently forgetting for a moment that the University already has an entire department for just that called University Information, complete with four locations in centralized places, already doing just what Lyndsey Walther-Thomas wants to do, especially when one of the University Information locations is in the same building as the proposed new info desk. Lauren Broussard, also on the votejmu2003.com “Dream Team” ticket, wants to “Form a formal and informal process by which to hold all student leaders accountable for their actions while in office and their announced goals.” There are already such processes. Levar Stoney (who I have not gotten to yet in this article) is running for reelection, where he is now being held accountable for his current term in office. The University at large can now decide whether they want to keep him or not. Now the other two “Dream Team” candidates are not nearly as objectionable, and Jake Miller is actually looking to prevent a repeat of an event that deeply split the JMU campus along racial lines regarding the SGA’s process of Front-End Budgeting, which essentially gives certain organizations “preferred” status for funding. Two of JMU’s front-end budgeted groups, the NAACP and Black Student Alliance, were slated to lose their front-end status, which really threw the campus into turmoil. Now, since I mentioned him earlier, let’s talk about Levar Stoney’s reelection campaign. Levar actually has one of the soundest campaigns of the whole bunch. He wants to get free legal service and assistance for JMU’s student body, “for everything from landlord-tenant disputes to DUI charges.” Interesting… Now I’m all for free legal services, but I also have to wonder about quality. They do say, after all, “You get what you pay for.” And I don’t especially want a lawyer that JMU chose to give me advice that might end up costing me a lot of money. Now after Levar comes Brian Nido and his “Got Nido” campaign. First of all, Brian Nido’s Web site leaves a LOT to be desired. The Brian Nido campaign sitebackground element is undefined, leaving his site, which he probably intended to be all-white, having an odd-looking default-gray color. Additionally, his HTML skills leave to be desired, as all his pictures have the same forced aspect ratio. Even his main page is skewed, with Brian Nido’s being uncomfortably stretched out. The HTML Police (a close relative to the Fashion Police) need to scoop this one up. In his campaign, Brian Nido wants to “educate and establish a class where we can learn and discuss current diversity issues such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. It’s time to break all forms of discrimination and create a general education class where we can do so.” This sounds vaguely important. He wants to teach diversity, something that can’t be taught in a class or forced on someone. You learn by example on that one. Treat others how you want to be treated regardless of differences. This campus already has enough self-proclaimed “experts” on diversity… do we really need a class? Brian also wants to invite “our favorite MTV celebrities to speak of their life experiences on and off the show.” How shallow. So he wants to take JMU’s money and pay pop stars to come to JMU and talk about themselves. Fun how he’s fantasizing about meeting these people with JMU’s money. Forget Clarence Thomas (who JMU actually got to speak in 2001) and his type… let’s get some MTV stars! This is what we really came to college for! Lastly, we have Jenny Brockwell. Jenny Brockwell modified the logo for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to create her campaign logo. Jenny Brockwell wants you to vote for her because “You hate having to travel an hour or more away to shop at the nearest Target, or not having your favorite clothing store anywhere around.” This is the ultimate “vanity” issue right here. She is promising a new Target store for Harrisonburg if she gets elected, as well as various other little clothing boutiques. Jenny Brockwell also wants buses that go downtown, as well as clocks at all bus stops synchronized to some magical Harrisonburg Transit time. First of all, it should be noted that many bus stops in Harrisonburg, such as that at Wal-Mart, are merely a sign stuck in the ground. That sounds like quite a high cost. The way I see it, it’s a two way street. Harrisonburg Transit does its best to stay on schedule, and you arrive to the bus stop in plenty of time to catch the bus. Regarding the buses going downtown, the existing bus schedule provides two bus routes that go directly into the heart of downtown. Route 3 goes to Massanutten Regional Library on South Main Street, and also drops at Court Square, which is in the center of downtown. In addition, Route 5 has two stops downtown. One drops at Court Square, and the other drops at the corner of Liberty Street and Water Street – just south of Court Square.

Now there are two campaigns that should be used as examples for others – the race for President and Treasurer in 2001. Dave Mills ran for President in 2001 with the platform of getting Flex (which is kind of like JMU cash) available off campus. Dave worked very hard at this, and got the system implemented. Even better is that it also got Dave a job after college. You can find Dave Mills behind the counter at Card Services, where he is in charge of managing the Flex off campus program. Another good example of how to do a campaign is to do what Chris Fortier did. He did make a campaign Web site at chrisfortier.com. However, it should be noted that he had his domain name well before the campaign, and continues to use it for his personal Web page. Campaign information was added to the front of this personal page during his (successful) campaign, and then removed afterwards.

So that’s the election scene for 2003! Who would you vote for? Would you actually want to vote for any of them?

Date posted: March 31, 2003

Notes: I got some comments after this one came out, mostly people saying that if I didn't vote, then I have no right to complain. For those concerned, yes, I did vote, following the old saying of "Vote early, vote often". As for the results, Levar Stoney was reelected as President, Jenny Brockwell was elected as Vice President of Administrative Affairs, Brian Nido was elected Vice President of Student Affairs, and Jake Miller was elected as Executive Treasurer.