ASUU campaigns shouldn?t be restricted

By By By Zack Oakey

By By Zack Oakey

In the 1976 ruling of Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court declared, “It is of particular importance that candidates have the unfettered opportunity to make their views known so that the electorate may intelligently evaluate the candidates’ personal qualities and their positions on vital public issues before choosing among them on Election Day.” This decision and its underlying assumptions, which include the protection of freedom of speech, especially on political issues, are vital. Too often, however, it is under constant threat, even at the U.

Last week, the executives of the Associated Students of the University of Utah asked the Academic Senate to further restrict the amount of money and time candidates may spend on their elections. That will affect the administration as well as the quantity and quality of speech. We need to prevent ASUU from tampering with this protection, especially when the composition of the student government is at stake.

Those who support limiting candidate speech or campaigning echo John Rawls when he criticized the Supreme Court’s above ruling, saying the right to pay for the opportunity to speak “runs the risk of endorsing the view that fair representation is representation according to the amount of influence effectively exerted.”

Here, “fairness” means restricting the use of scarce resources that potential candidates might have or can acquire in order to fit the vision of a few noble thinkers. Fairness, as understood by Rawls, means cutting down the trees in the forest so that no one other tree stands above the rest unfairly. This is called equality of outcome. In that world, boxers have equal chance of K.O. and basketball players have equal probabilities of making their baskets.

Keeping this philosophy in check is essential and not for reasons that would render sports, and therefore the lives of middle-aged, cubiculturists living vicariously through “our team,” obsolete. Its proponents assume that they are able to define what elements of a campaign are “necessary” and “correct.” These are terms ASUU President Tayler Clough used to describe the details of his administration’s proposal. He said he wants students “to be worried about issues and not whistles and bells.”

Noble desires quickly became prejudices as he revealed the particulars: “Fifteen posters per building is ridiculous. I’m confident that (the proposal) will at least force candidates…to take a closer look at their platforms.” This reveals a vision of how they think elections should be. Rawls and Clough believe how people decide their candidates ought to be legislated. They assume it will work.

If we value our freedoms to speak and act as we please, we should think differently. The governing body of our university should not be telling us what and how we should be discussing or how we should select our leadership. Freedom of speech implies the protection to decide topic as well as the means of conversation.

Clough said that “(limiting) flashiness forces candidates to think about how they’re going to benefit the student body,” as though this would only happen under proposed legislation. He said that the goal is to “enfranchise students,” thereby implying that they are disenfranchised by too much campaigning.

Contradiction enveloped contradiction as Clough described last year’s election in which his people “weren’t as flashy as (the GO Party)” but “in the end, students voted on the issues, not on what’s flashiest.” He said, “I want to ensure that that continues.”

It’s hard to imagine what kind of cognitive dissidence our leadership is experiencing. They hold two completely incompatible ideas in the same mind. On the one hand, students won’t focus on the “issues” without providing candidates incentive to focus them with a lighter purse, while on the other, there is proof, even in the minds of those proposing change, that they do so without any top-down commands. Which reality are we living in? Choose one.

On a more meaningful note: Assigning an approved quantity, quality and timing to election speech means ruining candidate autonomy and violating students’ rights to decide what will convince them to vote in their candidates’ favor. Too much speech is not the problem.

Too much regulation is.

Clough said as much, saying that U tradition, as recorded by the U Elections Registrar Derek Hoffman in the U Elections Packet, tells political parties in a mandatory orientation that candidates may not “approach students they don’t know” until one week leading to the primaries. Hoffman, though officially elections registrar, sits on an ad hoc committee that has membership and direction decided by Clough. He said that the purpose of this tradition is to prevent parties and candidates from “having an advantage over another…because some parties would start earlier than others.”

If U policy allowed candidates to set up booths or make platforms available whenever they like, elections would have the effect of giving candidates the means to decide for themselves how they will accomplish their objective8212;to please constituents. Should candidates serve any other purpose?

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