This weekend, students will decide whether candidates for Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) president will need to have had prior experience in the body to be eligible for election. If students trust themselves to choose their own leaders wisely, they should vote in favor of opening up eligibility to everyone.
The argument for restricting eligibility to current and former student representatives is straightforward: Students who are unfamiliar with the complex procedures and dynamics of student government will be less effective as its executive than someone who has studied how the body works firsthand. The members of BSG who have taken this position may well be correct, and voters should at the very least listen to their admonitions and take them seriously when weighing an experienced candidate against an inexperienced one.
At the same time, voters should be allowed to hear out candidates who do not have BSG experience. If an inexperienced candidate is able to convince voters that he or she will be able to fulfill the duties of the office better than an experienced candidate, then voters should be able to exercise their right to side with the inexperienced candidate, whether that winds up being the "wise" decision or not. You don't need a Bowdoin education to appreciate that this is how democracy works?the people choose their leader and then suffer the consequences, for better or worse.
Now, if students would prefer to exercise their democratic right to limit their choice, that too is their prerogative. But they must understand that in doing so they will be doing themselves a disservice when the presidential election rolls around later this month. For any economist will tell you that in elective politics as elsewhere, choice benefits the consumer, and the marketplace of ideas, like any marketplace, loathes a monopoly. One need not look further than the previous two BSG presidential elections to see that current eligibility rules lead to exasperatingly boring one-horse races. Whether students approve of how the last two presidents have done is irrelevant to this discussion. The point is that we didn't have a choice.
So this referendum on presidential eligibility is really a referendum on voter competency. Do Bowdoin students trust themselves to choose the best candidate to represent them? We hope the answer is yes. If students would prefer a maximally competitive field, they should vote to expand presidential eligibility this weekend. Those who believe experience makes for a better student government president should be content with their right vote for a BSG veteran on Election Day.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Steve Kolowich, Anne Riley, Anna Karass, Adam Kommel, Mary Helen Miller, Joshua Miller, and Cati Mitchell.