Tessa Hughes is a journalism sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
By now, no one is stranger to online classes. We are in week three and, hopefully, everyone has adjusted to life online between Zoom lectures and testing out the myriad of other online resources Cal Poly has implemented during this strange time. The university is trying to keep life for its students as normal as it can and that means proceeding with the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) elections, which just like everything else, will be online.
This has changed the name of the game for the candidates, who are now all forced to campaign digitally as opposed to in-person. Virtual campaigning can make it tricky for some to get their message out there; however, for others, it is an opportunity. Finally, all candidates are all on the same playing field.
Virtual campaigning levels the field because it is free.
As of this year, candidates are allowed to fund their campaign up to $1,500 to promote themselves in the race. This fund-cap is still the highest of all CSU schools. The trend of spending hundreds of dollars on a campaign eliminates students of lower-income because those who cannot shell out more money miss promotional opportunities. Students have been discouraged from running in the past not for lack of passion or lack of caring about the campus community, but for lack of funds.
With this system, students who can’t afford to take certain campaign measures don’t run because they struggle to see themselves as true competition against the more affluent candidates. This keeps them out of student government and, by extension, leaves them out when it comes time to make big decisions that affect them too.
Governments are supposed to be a chance for people to be represented, heard, and initiate change, but that can’t be done effectively or accurately if people are left behind. Financially challenged students are being underrepresented on campus matters and that isn’t fair.
Digital campaigning gives everyone — regardless of income — the same opportunity to run for ASI government without the burden of money. While everything seems to be a mess amid the COVID-19 pandemic, here is a silver lining. Students who may have been previously disheartened from running now feel like they stand a chance.
Some students have embraced the all-digital chance to form a social media platform, like The Coalition of Love, on Instagram where they are able to run on a united front and advocate the same message.
“ASI is oppressive in so many ways and I want to name classism as one issue that I have been trying to fight. It has been a fight to get ASI to lower its spending limit,” ethnic studies sophomore Manmit Singh Chahal said. “In other words, you need a ridiculous amount of money in order to campaign and win, making the position so inaccessible. However, because now the campaigning is all digital, we are happily running a $0 campaign as we had dreamed.”
Singh Chahal is one of the three candidates running for ASI president and is the leader of the coalition.
Despite what the future holds for Cal Poly, the university should consider the nondiscriminatory campaign method for the future. Everything is already online nowadays, from news to television, so implementing more online resources on campus shouldn’t be any different. Having students run this way is forward-thinking and could bolster and benefit the campus community. By eliminating funded campaigns the opportunity arises to cultivate a more diverse student government, which could further aid in fixing Cal Poly’s diversity problem, and encourage more students to get involved on campus.