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Editorial: We Need Substance in SBA Elections

Submitted by on April 10 – 201325 Comments

This year’s Student Bar Association election is one of the most robust in years, with no clear front-runner and vibrant campaign efforts. Unfortunately, many candidates do not seem to be taking the election as seriously as we expect student leaders should. Calls for toilet action plans and better coffee in the cafeteria are not solutions to the real challenges the SBA should address. The memes popping up on lockers only mock the kind of substantive election that this school needs. With a broad range of challenges facing the new board, we need candidates that are focused, serious, and can handle a wide array of challenges. So far we’re not impressed.

Next year, Fordham Law School will be enrolling fewer students and cutting the budget accordingly. This alone presents a huge challenge to the incoming SBA. Currently, the SBA runs on a zero balance budget. This means that if every student group spent every dollar it is allocated, the SBA would go broke by the end of each year—all unused funds are shuffled back into the university-wide account. Next year, the budget could be cut by 15 to 30 percent. The current SBA has been pushing for a system that allows student groups to turn over unspent funds to the following year’s board. Such an effort needs to continue seamlessly or it will be lost.

But funding isn’t the only challenge for the incoming SBA board. Problems in the move to the new building need to be addressed now. Journals are preparing to move into smaller offices, and the various centers and clinics are still vying for space that will conflict with the needs of student groups. Indeed, the number of student groups is increasing; it’s likely that we’ll have 63 unique student groups next year when the current applications are approved. We need an SBA that can work on behalf of students to see that our new building is used in the students’ best interest.

Beyond campus, there are broad changes being discussed (and implemented) in the legal community. For one, the new 50-hour pro bono requirement remains a mystery to many. The incoming SBA board needs to take an active role in pushing the administration to inform students about changing requirements. The SBA should work with administrators to gauge student and faculty interest in other changes, such as the two-year model currently being discussed by the American Bar Association, and advocate accordingly.

During OCI, the SBA board is responsible for preparing students, coordinating with the interviewing firms, and hosting daily receptions. It welcomes new students and helps run orientation. It plans the bar night calendar and coordinate planning for the commencement speaker. It holds a treasurers’ meeting and determines student group budgets. And it does all of this before the first week of classes is complete. The tasks only multiply as the year goes on.

Don’t get us wrong, the student body will be fine with weak representation but we will be best served by a board that takes the job seriously. The CPC will continue to remind us to look pretty for OCI, Academic Affairs will continue to encourage us to form study groups, and the librarians will offer comfortable chairs as incentive to spend every waking moment in the library. But treating the elections like a joke—even if the candidates do—is selling ourselves short of an opportunity. We need leadership that will more assertively advocate on behalf of students. We also need representatives with tact and grace, not representatives focused solely on grooming their image or spending reckless amounts of time on niche problems.

This campaign has devolved into a farce. We need serious candidates with concrete ideas about how to work effectively within increasingly constrained regulations to support the students. Whoever is elected this year will have to answer to the students, and we should make every effort to hold them accountable after elections are complete.

–The Record Editorial Board

25 Comments »

  • B says:

    I didn’t even know the SBA did a third of that. Damn, you guys are right. Less memes, please convince me that you are a serious candidate/student and that I should care/believe in you.

  • 123456789 says:

    Sounds like someone is taking themselves far to seriously. Maybe once the FLS record folks have real jobs, they’ll recognize that fake ones should be approached with a certain sense of jest.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks to this year’s SBA campaign, I now know a whole lot about internet memes, and nothing about the issues the candidates stand for.

    This campaign has been a popularity contest, and this election a joke.

    Normally, I wouldn’t care. But, the SBA isn’t just any student group. It affects the FLS student body in a very real, and very tangible way. It is the representative body between the FLS student community and the administration. No less important, it also allocates funding among FLS student groups.

    SBA candidates: Please take this seriously. So far, this has been an embarrassment.

  • Patrick Randolph Bell says:

    Great article.

    I totally agree that a serious election run on the concept of whose posters are funnier or cuter is just ridiculous. Unfortunately – this still seems to be the best way to get your name out to the student body. However, I’d like to thank The Record for allowing me to post my platform and to address a few of the important and serious issues which it raised in the above article.

    As a member of a few student groups I agree that left over funds should be passed onto to the group’s budgets for next year. As it stands, these funds must be spent or they are lost. This leads to a lot of the money being spent frivolously before the end of each year. This is just wrong.

    The 50 hour requirement remains a mystery to many in the law school community. Students need to know more about this and I will ensure that the administration takes the responsibility of instructing current and future students as to how this requirement can be properly fulfilled seriously.

    As to the allocation of future office space in the new building, I promise to work with all the groups to make sure that their needs for space are properly addressed. A happy student is a more productive student.

    I have already spoken to multiple professors and to various school administrators about the two year model for law school – a model which I support. I propose that next year we form a small committee made up of students, faculty, and administrators that can thoroughly hash out the details of this proposed change. These details will then be presented to the general student body for comments, which will then be readdressed by the committee.

    Thank you again for giving me an opportunity to address a number of student concerns which have not yet been raised in this election campaign.

    Sincerely,

    Patrick Randolph Bell

  • Caleb says:

    How naive of you. Elections are elections, there are won by getting your name out there. But since you mentioned it…

    In your emoting, you totally missed the substance of the narratives YOU published. There is a former accountant running for treasurer, former USMC executive officer running for secretary. Do you think a former accountant is going to be thrown by the SBA budget? Do you think a former USMC officer is going to be shy addressing any law school issue? I appreciate your emotion but it is misplaced here.

  • Anonymous says:

    The single most important issue (The current SBA’s attempt to impeach PRB as Secretary this year) has been successfully repressed by the current SBA and the administration. All that’s left are memes.

  • 2L says:

    *Lighten Up, It’s called ADVERTISING*

    I read all of the “candidate introductions” from the SBA email sent out last week and it sounds like the candidates all have a plethora of great ideas. I’m assuming the author of this article failed to read that email or look at any of the candidates’ Facebook pages where they have discussed their platforms. I think funny colorful posters can only help people promote their names to students who might not know them. Garnering interest through such an attractive poster may then lead students to look up the candidates online or in the SBA email. Isn’t that always the point of advertising? It also seems unrealistic to assume that a candidate would post a long statement about their platform on an election poster. That would hardly attract anyone’s interest.

    Apparently last year less than half the student body voted so with all of the colorful posters, perhaps now the election will draw enough interest to the candidates so that those elected can truly represent the entire student body.

    And as we get closer to finals– I know that I personally always appreciate a good laugh and “Notorious PRB” did just that. Great job on the campaigns guys!

  • B says:

    Then why on EARTH were their qualifications (accountant, USMC officer) not on the posters?! I definitely would have definitely voted for those people HAD I KNOWN THEY HAD THEM. All I see are moustaches.

  • Erica says:

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/2fa25876a84c295115a5e971d98e42e8/tumblr_mkwvchqkeh1ql5yr7o1_r1_500.gif

    But more seriously… from reading last week’s SBA candidate introduction email it sounds like everyone has a ton of experience and ideas. Even though I’m running unopposed I’m working extremely hard right now to support my friends’ campaigns because they’re highly qualified, have legitimate work and leadership experiences, and also have great personalities which make them all really well rounded SBA candidates. You should go read the blurbs from that email and learn about them. The campaign posters have been a fun way to advertise and promote the election. If you don’t share the sense of humor that’s totally fine, but make sure you do your homework before you get so critical.

    #educateyourself

    THANKS :)

  • Amanda Yu says:

    Hi everyone,

    I appreciate all of the opinions stated regarding the SBA elections this year including this piece. This open communication is crucial! I only wish that there was more time to flesh out all of the issues.

    I know a thing or two about accountability. I don’t leave a job half done and expect someone else to pick up the slack. I don’t abandon my responsibilities. I make mistakes, but I do my best to fix them.

    As everyone knows, SBA is limited. There are plenty of changes that we would love to see but the power is just not in the hands of students. That is why my ticket and I promised to be the people that would take the issues to those who have the power. The more we are seen and heard in a positive and productive light, the more seriously we are taken. Aside from FLS administration, we also have to consider how we are perceived by alums, employers, and our peers. Who do you want to represent you?

    We have run an honest, respectful campaign that does not resort to bad-mouthing or inflated promises. Our ideas are out there. Our platform has always been that we will be informed advocates. We know what’s going on in the school (graduating 3Ls – your take-home finals are due May 9th at 5pm unless your professor has set an earlier due date!) and will communicate with you. I know that it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but managing school-wide emails is a big task on top of everything else, and as SBA Events Senator, I know how to juggle emails and scheduling. It may seem trivial, but it is part of the job that needs to get done. Only doing half of your job is unacceptable.

    I know that there are concerns about student organization funding. As a board member of APALSA, I am aware of the role SBA plays in training the Presidents and Treasurers as well as doling out the yearly budgets. APALSA endorsed me because the board unanimously believes in me and has seen what I can do.

    Also in regards to the 50 hours of pro bono service, it’s truly just a big question mark right now. However, I do not only want to encourage administration to inform the student body of what the requirements are, but also to provide opportunities for students to fulfill the requirement. Organizing more PILC opportunities and student group volunteering will give participating students a jump start in getting those hours.

    Additional issues that I would like to address if I am elected include transparency between faculty/staff and students, CPC programming, and all-around accessibility. We are students. We pay (a lot of) tuition. Our issues should be addressed – and addressed quickly!

    I can only continue to stress what I have tried to stress during this entire campaign: I want to do what is best for FLS students. The best SBA Board is one that is truly in touch with what the students want/need and can effectively bring those issues to administration to enact change for the better. I came to law school because I want to be a legal advocate for my clients. But I also want to advocate for my fellow students. If elected, that’s just what I’ll do.

    Sincerely,

    Amanda Yu
    amandayu.email@gmail.com

  • Jane Doe says:

    http://i.imgur.com/jTP0tRB.gif

    You mean that blurb where you wrote a whole 2 sentences on what you’d do if elected? (Talking in 3rd person, mentioning the pressing lack of bar nights, plugging other people and writing in hashtags don’t count, sorry)

    #dobetter

  • Anonymous says:

    “The single most important issue (The current SBA’s attempt to impeach PRB as Secretary this year) has been successfully repressed by the current SBA and the administration.”

    If this is actually true, why didn’t anyone shed light on this earlier so we could make informed decisions about our candidates?

    From Amanda Yu’s response:
    ” I know that it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but managing school-wide emails is a big task on top of everything else, and as SBA Events Senator, I know how to juggle emails and scheduling.”

    Sounds like Amanda Yu had to take on the responsibilities of SBA Secretary this past year.

    Something doesn’t seem kosher here.

  • Erica says:

    #hatersgonnahate

  • Anonymous says:

    To be fair, the Fordham Law community – not the current crop of candidates – has created this situation. Every year, the SBA election becomes more like a popularity contest and less like an intelligent discussion of the issues. The goofy posters and memes? At this point, they’re expected – just like the goofy posters and memes for Follies. (The comparison is not accidental.) Good grief – this year the winners will be announced AT Barristers’ Ball? What is this, Prom King and Queen? (I am actually disgusted by this way of announcing the new SBA Board. Way to go, SBA – you just ruined Barristers’ for 4 people. Does that feel good?) At any rate, this year’s candidates are only following the path laid out for them: they didn’t create it.

    I have been impressed by all of the candidates this year. If you read their statements, they all have intelligent ideas and points of view… and not ONE of them has resorted to trash talk or ugly politicking. Way to go, ALL of the candidates, for trying to fit your campaigns into the structure that was set for you by SBA Boards and elections past. Here’s hoping the new SBA Board can change the parameters for future elections.

  • Think about yourself says:

    Seriously, stop with the hashtag shit with everything. It makes you sound like an idiot. You’re running unopposed and people don’t have any other option so you’re going to basically be the representative of our law school’s evening division whether anyone likes it or not. With that in mind, please at least try to sound like an intelligent adult and not some teenage joke that wandered into to the law school by accident.

  • Per Curiam says:

    Op-Ed: We Need Actual Authors at “The Record”

    - Off the record

  • Rich Routh says:

    First off, Record Editorial Board, if you guys don’t like Patrick, just come out and say so. No need to take potshots.

    More importantly, just because the man likes to have fun doesn’t mean he can’t get stuff done.

    Maybe some people believe that hard work and humor need to be segregated but I personally would rather not have those types of people in leadership positions. Not everyone needs to take themselves so seriously.

    I think all the candidates are smart and capable, and this article is an insult to all of them.

  • B says:

    Seriously, Erica, is that really you posting this? You come off as INSANELY unprofessional. Stop it. Please.

  • B says:

    Perhaps if you interpret any criticism of a candidate as being unprofessional as a critique of yours, perhaps that says more about the candidate than it says about the Record’s editorial board.

  • James says:

    Why were candidates allowed to post their spam all over the bulletin boards including “apartments for rent” and “items for sale.” Who regulates these elections? What are the campaign rules? Are there even election procedures at this school? Was there time scheduled for the candidates to give a speech in McNally?

  • 2e says:

    Erica, I want to believe. Please don’t disappoint, and please stop talking in hashtags. You’re smarter than that. Maybe pretend you’ll take the job seriously instead of starting your post with a “I’ll call for you if I need you” gif. Really? Way to “represent” us.

  • B says:

    Au revoir, moustache.

  • 2E says:

    So let me get this straight Erica…you are responding to an article that was basically about “the Ericas” and their lack of substance and your counterargument is that not all the candidates were as unprofessional/immature as us. Some of the people that ran were actually quite qualified.

    Talk about a lack of self-awareness. Remember, you are not a Rush Chair for a sorority. You are actually representing many serious professionals. Please don’t embarrass us anymore.

  • Shane Martins says:

    I commend the Ericas for their unique campaign efforts. In a world that is already plagued with seriousness and tragedy, your efforts were charismatic, unique and light-hearted. No one wants a student leader who acts like a congressman/woman… what this article is clearly missing is the fact that we actually need MORE Ericas.

    Peace, Love & Happy Thoughts,

    Shane Martins

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