By Christie S. Peterson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
In a year in which nearly all candidates have stressed the importance of increased student involvement in student government elections, several groups have chosen to answer that call in rather unorthodox ways.
During the week before primary elections, two previously unheard-of organizations Ä Students for Better Government and Students for Optimum Performance (of ASUA) Ä emerged to publicly endorse candidates in the pages of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.
While neither group claims formal affiliation with their endorsees, each has chosen candidates they feel would best represent students and has encouraged others to vote accordingly.
Although they were not an official club when they spoke out in a published letter to the editor, Students for Better Government has since been recognized by University of Arizona Department of Student Programs as an official club.
Shoshana Elkins, club president and political science senior, emphasized that the group is highly informal.
"We don't want to become a highly formalized group that would become easier to manipulate," she said. "We don't want people to assume we're affiliated with candidates ... we're not a (political action committee) and we never intend to be."
In another effort to keep the group difficult "to manipulate," their club constitution clearly states that ASUA candidates may neither become members nor attend club meetings.
"We just wanted to check out the elections," she explained. "We pay for an education, we pay for this government ... We're just a group that saw something wrong with the process."
When selecting candidates to endorse, Elkins said the group of "about 20" students evaluated their options, but their real goal was to get students involved.
"If people agree with us, they agree with us. If they don't, they don't," she said. "Just get out there and vote ... We're urging people to go out there and make informed decisions on who the best candidates to represent them are."
Students for Optimum Performance, which placed a classified advertisement in the March 1 issue endorsing six candidates, is an ad hoc group of graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom have been involved in ASUA before.
Although none of the candidates endorsed by the group had knowledge of the endorsement before it occurred and contributed no money to it, they will be subject to both its positive and negative results as the $22 price of the advertisement is split among the six and listed as campaign expenses on their accounts.
Elizabeth Jackson, spokesperson for Students for Optimum Performence, said they were unaware of the negative impacts on the candidates when they placed the original endorsement, and decided against placing another endorsement for that reason.
"It irritates me because, all of a sudden, students want to get involved ... and they get punished for it," she said.
ASUA Elections Commissioner Mike Clifton-Harter said that the endorsements, "show some students are involved in student government, but they're going about it the wrong way" because they did not work through recognized clubs and organizations.
Jackson said the group's decision to speak out had been strongly influenced by their previous experiences in ASUA.
"Once you're involved in it, you sort of always remain Ä that's how it happened," she said. "Not that student government the last few years has been bad ... but when we were involved, there seemed to be a different atmosphere."
The "atmosphere" that is missing, she said, is one of student involvement.
Although previous ASUA relations played a role, Students for Optimum Performance members attended candidate forums and asked questions, which formed the basis for the endorsements, which may or may not appear again next year.
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