By Zak Vescera
After a month of speculation, a week of parties and events, and a nerve-wracking day of voting and tallying, the 2016 Bureaux Elections have come to a close. Insomniart, led by President Deniz Mekik, is your new BDA. Fresh PReims of Bel-Air, headed by President Lukas Drammeh, is your new BDE, and ASpire, led by Stan Pincon, won in a default race.
Congratulations are due to all the new lists. But it is not the winners that we should discuss. It’s the loser.
It certainly isn’t Art’E Diem or PowerReimsgers, who displayed magnificent dedication and sportsmanship. When we speak of a loser in this campaign, we’re talking about the campus itself. More specifically, we betrayed our identity as a student body that seeks to inform itself on its candidates and its politics.
The Trois Bureaux are very arguably the core of campus life and politics; the AS is the primary coordinator of inter-campus WEIC trips as well as all sports on campus, the BDA a conduit for creative expression, and the BDE is charged with continuing some of the campuses largest social events, as well as general student well-being and integration. The Trois Bureaux are the driving force behind Minicrit, the answer to an otherwise dull Friday night, and the heart of student life. So why was engagement in this election so low?
In a debate hosted by The Sundial, this writer, the moderator, counted approximately 40 students who were not part of a list; that’s far less than 10% of the voting group. Subsequent debates organized by the Electoral Commission were almost derailed because of student apathy; a BDE debate was moved to the main courtyard last-minute because of a turnout that was quite literally zero, and still only attracted a handful of listeners. A similar BDA debate the next day was cancelled completely. In what was probably the most important ballot that Sciences Pistes would cast in their time here, hardly any voters took the time to hear candidates express their platform.
Around the same time, QS announced that Sciences Po was the 4th best school of politics and international relations in the world. In both class discussions and in passing, our campus considers itself to be a place where politics and engagement are and should be a fact of life. The apathy seen among voters, in our minds, doesn’t occur here; yet the percentage of students who attended a debate is roughly 6% of the campus, or the same number of registered Democrats who voted in Maine– the worst turnout in the entirety of the U.S primary. The contrast between the shared Facebook statuses of QS’s given ranking and the apathy of the real world was and is staggering.
It’s true that making a decision on a Bureau isn’t just a matter of attending debates; their job is largely to put on events. A series of daylife games, nightlife clubbing (Fresh PReims challenged their patrons to go to 5 club nights in a row), and parties were both an exercise in campus spirit and part of making a political decision. But is going out for a week on end all it takes to be engaged? There’s no commitment or work and certainly very little thought to playing beer pong.That isn’t to say a list can’t have substance and still throw a good party; that’s what a good list is. But choosing a list strictly based on who gives you the most croissants by day and Jagerbombs by night isn’t being informed.
Even well before the campaigns commenced, campus engagement seemed to have hit a low. A General Assembly called before the campaign could barely start due to a deficit of students attending. When it finally did start, 30 minutes late, it quickly disintegrated into a mass of yelling and confusion, with angry Bureau members against an audience that ranged from the heated to the totally uninterested. About half the crowd left before the documents had even been ratified.
Of course, it’s possible that students could have informed themselves without going to the debate. But the numbers deny that, too. As of the writing of this article, the greatest number of plays on any of the interviews that Reims City Broadcasting conducted with candidates is a mere 48, for the BDA lists. On the document that The Sundial distributed to collect questions for our debate, we only received 22 questions for candidates from a campus of over 600.
There is perhaps no better indicator of apathy on campus than the percentage of voters who cast a ballot; 68%. Doesn’t seem bad? It’s only 4% higher than the voter turnout last year. Unless you count the joke list “Beyond Beyond Beavers”, that was an election where every single list was uncontested. In other words, the presence of actual stakes in the election attracted a mere 4% more people to the polls.
Each and every list in this election ran an innovative, industrious, and successful campaign. The lists outdid themselves with the formulation of their platforms and events, and they’ve earned a celebration. In this election, the losers were not defeated lists but voters who failed to live up to their obligation to be informed, their simple duty to make it to the polls, and their identity and reputation as students of Sciences Po.