This week, the Election Reform Commission (ERC) recommended to Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) that eligibility for BSG president be expanded to include students who have not previously served in the body. Although BSG could easily kill a motion to send this question to referendum, we believe the student body, not the existing representatives, ought to decide who should be eligible to run for president.
The student government is meant to be a proxy for student opinion. But on a question as important as presidential eligibility, why not use the real thing? A vote by BSG to strike the measure down before it reaches the students might suggest that BSG does not in fact accurately represent Bowdoin students. BSG already has image problems. According to ERC Chair Will Hales '08, "BSG has a perception as a clique." If BSG does not allow the whole student body to decide on the issue, the body will appear self-serving, because it would limit the pool of prospective presidents to its own members.
It cannot be argued that BSG would simply be saving students the hassle of voting, because the ERC's campus-wide survey this January showed students split right down the middle on the question of eligibility (148 respondents said that prior BSG experience should be required for candidacy, 146 disagreed). This issue is controversial enough that denying students a referendum on the matter would be a disservice to the student body.
While this page does not care to take a position on the eligibility question at this time, we do take issue with the election commission's recommendation that seniors should be barred from voting in spring elections. "It is our belief," the commission wrote in its report, "that those who will be represented by the BSG should have full say in who represents them."
The commission's rationale implies that seniors should not have a say in who serves on BSG the year after they graduate. We find this argument unconvincing. As the longest-tenured members of the student body, seniors?especially those who care enough about Bowdoin's well-being to cast an outgoing vote?bring an indispensable element of wisdom to these elections. Seniors have the most experience observing what works at Bowdoin and what does not, so they are theoretically in the best position to evaluate a candidate's platform. Meanwhile, seniors who are "less invested in the democratic process" are unlikely to vote anyway.
With regard to the problem of students influencing conditions that will not affect them, students and faculty might recall that two weeks ago BSG organized a rally to protest a change in grading policy that will not affect any currently enrolled students. According to the commission's logic, those students had no right to attempt to influence the faculty's decision to eliminate the Credit/D/Fail option in required classes, because students should only have the power to influence issues that affect them personally. We disagree for reasons already stated.
Currently, making a rule disenfranchising seniors would be unconstitutional. If it comes to a constitutional referendum, we encourage voters keep it that way in spite of the ERC's recommendation.