The roar of excitement as you approach Business Row in September elicits an almost visceral reaction for many upperclassmen. We dodge stickers like Keanu Reeves and suddenly have to make important phone calls. These are survival methods that have become muscle memory to many of us. While many facets of student campaigning, in the end, are trivial, 2019’s Miss Ole Miss campaign has demonstrated that the Associated Student Body guidelines can determine the outcome. ASB’s election guidelines forced the Judicial Board to make an example out of a technicality. Instead of focusing on the root problems greek life poses to student elections, we were forced to focus on flowers.
As Liza Boyer said in her letter to the editor, “our job is to make decisions based on how the law is written at that moment in time – not how we want it to be understood at that time.” As a former standards chair for my sorority, I can only imagine that Boyer had the same feeling I had when I addressed members of my organization — but her feeling was magnified across the entire campus. The Judicial Council has no hand in creating the code, but they have to enforce it. Imagine how compromising it is to enforce a code that you don’t fully support. The Judicial Council has taken the brunt of public opinion when it should be on the senate — the body which formulated the code.
Election rules are presented and voted on by the ASB Senate and then passed by the president. The rules have undergone many revisions, but the particular section that relates so crucially to this past election was revised in 2018. Last year, the DM reported, “This most recent campaign reform bill aims to curb attempts by candidates, campaign representatives or organizations to ‘coerce, bribe, incentivize, intimidate or force a person to vote or campaign for a specific candidate.’ Violations will result in a major campaign violation for the candidate.”
This bill seems like a good idea. However, its consequences are too far reaching and miss the root cause. We need to ask ourselves why students are driven to such extreme actions in order to win a student personality election.
There is a way to prevent the candidate who received the most votes from being disqualified while still tackling the problematic role Panhellenic organizations play in elections. For a regulation to truly be effective it needs to be preventive instead of reactive. Senator Barron Mayfield said in a quote to the DM about the amended campaign regulation, “Let’s get around the elephant in the room and say that this is pretty much a reaction to the point system used by sororities.” Should Greek life even be allowed to sponsor candidates financially? Probably not. Members of Panhellenic organizations already have an advantage that is nearly impossible for non Panhellenic students to overcome — networking. We need to reduce the campaign budgets, eliminate greek sponsorship and more clearly define the role each player has in a campaign. The ASB cannot keep using band aids to solve issues that need open heart surgery.
Caroline Rose is a senior accounting major from Bluffton, South Carolina.