Sam McMahon for president
The Spectrum’s official endorsement
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 23:10
It would be a complete and utter failure for the student body to not elect Sam McMahon as the Student Association president.
In a special election brought forth by yet another scandal, this decision is vitally important. It is important for restoring SA from its current state of dysfunction, for altering its trajectory for the future, for repairing its relationship with the students.
There is no better person for this task right now than McMahon.
And to be perfectly blunt, it’s not even close.
Given the recent history of SA, this is a time when expectations are low. But in our endorsements, McMahon proved to be one of the most impressive candidates we have seen in years. He was articulate about his platform, transparent in his plans for the year and more experienced than any of his opponents.
As a fifth-year senior studying aerospace engineering, he has maintained strong involvement with SA since his junior year – which has given him an extensive understanding of how our student government works. The breadth and depth of his experience makes him not only a more qualified candidate than his opponents, but someone with a more realistic and practical vision for the direction he wants SA to go.
McMahon began his SA career working as office personnel. This experience leaves him well equipped at knowing how to deal with students and knowledgeable of how SA interacts with the community. He was also an event staff lieutenant, which leaves him well practiced at working with the clubs and the Entertainment Department.
The most important aspect of his experience, however, is his involvement in SA this summer. McMahon was the only full-time employed student in SA; he worked closely with professional staff and with all the departments.
The summer is a pivotal time for SA – it is the transitional period when all the learning takes place for those preparing for their new positions. Unlike his opponents, McMahon was around for that period of development and training. And currently, he is the senior office manager.
One of the biggest points he makes in his campaign platform is that given the state of SA – which is in need of immediate and substantial repair – it will take someone who is familiar with the way SA functions to rebuild the organization. It will take someone who knows what’s wrong with SA, who knows what the problem is and has a concrete idea for how he or she is going to fix it.
For the common student, however, who is not involved with SA and isn’t aware of how it operates or what it does, the concern regarding student government is how it can actually make a difference in his or her college experience.
For too long we have heard SA presidential hopefuls base their campaigns on abstractions – facilitating student involvement, building a sense of community – and for too long this has manifested in empty campaign promises.
What McMahon has that distinguishes him from the other candidates is his experience and a series of concrete goals that are achievable. What we like in McMahon is a sense of pragmatism – a belief in the efficacy of working for what works.
Aside from some internal structural changes McMahon is interested in ascertaining – including instituting a two-thirds majority approval needed within the e-board for all hiring and firing for SA positions – he has two particular concrete goals for what the association can provide to students to improve their experiences this year.
He wants to collaborate with a taxi service to provide subsidized cab rides for students. For a long time now, there has been much dialogue around campus about ways the university can increase student safety. This initiative will allow students to explore Buffalo – in areas that the UB Stampede does not go to – in a more cost-efficient way, while providing students a safe outlet for transportation to and from various locations.
But it should be understood that this is not for wherever, whenever. McMahon hopes to have SA cover a 10 percent discount on cab rides under $100 on Friday and Saturday nights.
He also wants to establish a free airport shuttle service around breaks. There are many UB students who are not from Western New York and this initiative is a way to provide students without cars access to transportation to and from the airport. Even for the students who do have cars, this will help; they will not have to pay for parking at the airport while they are away on break.
These proposals may seem small to some, but they are basic and concrete, and most of all, feasible – which is exactly the type of ideas that need to come out of SA right now. A new president should not be attempting to move heaven and earth at the moment, but rather, should focus on a politics of what’s possible.
Much of what impresses us about McMahon – his preparation for the role, his professionalism and his common sense approach – is what we should expect from our student leaders.
We are sure that Mohammad Alwahaidy, Kyle Davis, Jessica Honan, James Lopez, Amber Potter and Michael Simons are all good people, but none are qualified or prepared to be president.
Only McMahon, Alwahaidy and Honan showed up for our endorsements. The latter two did not demonstrate the knowledge of SA nor did they understand the direction they would like to take the organization the way McMahon did.
Alwahaidy proposed working to install heating at bus stops on campus and cutting the presidential stipend substantially. But there are problems with his proposals.
Heated bus stops would certainly be nice during Buffalo’s brutal winters, and we strongly advocate for them, but this idea came around long before Alwahaidy emerged. In fact, Nick Johns proposed this same idea in March and it was as true then as it is now that the university has been planning to implement heated bus stops independent of SA.