Not-so-great expectations

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The Spectrum

Next week, the Student Association is holding an election in search of its new president.

The president has arguably the most power in SA, so some might think there is a lot of pressure on the six candidates seeking the position to have a successful year.

But is there really?

It's no secret SA has been marred with controversy over the past five years or so. If it isn't laundering money or punching a fellow student in the face, the SA e-board sure knows how to set the bar low for the incoming administration.

Last year, President Travis Nemmer ran a pretty smooth administration - except for the accusations from then-Treasurer Justin Neuwirt that he had tried to rig the 2013-14 SA election, and the fact that testimony from various SA staffers suggested the communication between Nemmer and Neuwirt was virtually non-existent.

But still, because no one in his administration did anything worse than launder $300,000 in a fraudulent mobile application - something the previous administration's treasurer had done - by comparison, Nemmer's presidency was pretty 'successful.'

Even with a bar so low, however, this year's administration managed to trip over it and push the bar even further into the ground. And, remarkably, it took only four weeks into the semester.

Unlike most elected officials, our next president won't be judged on the things he or she did well. Instead, the person will be judged on whether he or she managed to avoid scandal. And that is a shame.

SA, which has a budget of $3.6 million, has the capability to do amazing things. And the truth is, it does do a lot.

Last year, I saw firsthand a group of SA senators do everything in their power to send the women's club rugby team to nationals - a feat the club had never accomplished and couldn't afford. The Senate worked diligently to find the funds to send the team to Stanford, Calif. And they succeeded.

It is unfortunate that the cloud of controversy that still looms over the organization overshadows stories like this.

The standard for a successful presidency has somewhat become a joke. To put it simply, just don't screw up.

You would think this simple piece of advice should be obvious and is inherently intertwined with the position itself, but clearly it is not. Maybe if the past five e-boards had heard that, the connotation of 'SA' would actually be positive.

But it is more than that. I feel our student government has become a place where complacency outweighs drive. I may be wrong. In fact, I hope I am wrong.

What I do know is there are a lot of people within SA who are trying to allow it to reach its full potential. And every time a scandal surfaces, their work is overlooked.

Two such people are SA Vice President Lyle Selsky and Treasurer Siddhant Chhabria. In the time after Johns' resignation, they have both stepped up to a challenge they could have never anticipated, and, in many ways, they've handled it almost seamlessly. The new president should be one to complement the job they have done thus far.

With the election a few days away, I am sure we are going to hear phrases like "restoring faith in SA" and "changing a culture."

But it's time to stop talking about it and start being about it.

The bar is low - probably lower than ever before.

So, Mohammad, Kyle, Jessica, James, Sam, Amber and Michael: I urge you to not be satisfied with being adequate, even if adequacy would be a great improvement upon years past. Prove me wrong. Make the rest of the year more than a 'success.'

Good luck. And may the best candidate win.

email: sam.fernando@ubspectrum.com