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Evans: Sticky situation

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | APRIL 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Endorsements are a primary function of any newspaper’s editorial board, including The Daily Iowan Editorial Board. Candidates and policies, parties and issues all come under intense scrutiny, and decisions are made according to a consensus held by the members of the board. Critical thought mixed with well-formulated arguments yield appeals to rationality leading to an eventual endorsement of a party or set of ideas.

Recently, the Daily Iowan Editorial Board endorsed the HOUSE Party in its campaign against the TOGA Party for election to the University of Iowa Student Government. But after the dismal and nonsensical events that ensued over the past week, I, as the editor of this opinions page, am nearly embarrassed for endorsing either party. In general, there seems to be a lack of critical thought in the two parties.

First, look at the names — TOGA and HOUSE. Both insinuate and connote a drinking or party lifestyle, a lifestyle that is still a major problem at the UI despite the best efforts of university officials. Immediately, the legitimacy of the parties as responsible representatives and ambassadors of the university wanes.

But neither party seemed to think there was the least bit of connection between the names of their parties and the endorsement (however implicit) of illicit behavior.

HOUSE presidential candidate Katherine Valde said her party’s name was chosen because it was “cute and playful but gets to the point.”

“We didn’t intend or anticipate [that connotation],” Valde said. “It’s just something you remember right away, and it’s a way to get attention.”

And the opposing party didn’t seem to put in much thought to the connotations of its name, either.

Jostna Dash, the TOGA vice-presidential candidate, said the name was chosen because the members thought it was “fun” and would stress the acronym the name represents instead of the literal name.

This acronym, of course, was chosen after TOGA was decided on.

“It’s a fun name; it shouldn’t be taken too seriously,” Dash said. “This isn’t real politics. It should be fun.”

Isn’t real politics.

The UISG oversees a budget of nearly $470,000 to be distributed among student organizations around campus, including Dance Marathon, the Bijou, and SCOPE. The UISG also meets with university officials, as well as Iowa state legislators on behalf of the UI undergraduate population to argue for tuition reform, energy sustainability, increased financial aid, and many other incredibly important issues directly affecting students.

Isn’t real politics, cute and playful, shouldn’t be taken seriously. Tell that to the kid working full-time to pay for this university’s tuition — he’ll tell you it’s pretty serious.    

Aaron Horsfield, the TOGA presidential candidate and Dash’s running mate, also said he didn’t think about what the name of his party meant “literally” but expected the student population to look beyond the connotation.

“I’ve never heard of a toga party going on at the university,” Horsfield said. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but [the party’s message] outweighs the connotation.”

That is, of course, directly contradictory to holding bar crawls in your party’s name, which both TOGA and HOUSE did separately on April 5.

Bar crawls happen in bars. Almost half of the university undergraduate population is underage. Inviting undergraduates to a bar for five hours of drinking with shots named after the political parties will inevitably yield in people, UI students, getting drunk.

But neither of the parties’ leadership seems all that concerned with the issue of drinking but instead just seems to accept the bar crawls as a UISG campaign tradition.

“It’s happened the past three years here,” said Dash about holding campaign events in bars. “It’s just another way to reach out to voters.”

Valde nearly echoed that statement, citing the use of bar crawls in past elections to “reach out to students.”

No critical thought; neither party deciding to disembark from the tradition of drinking and student representation; neither party thinking maybe, just maybe, a bar crawl accompanied with their names might elicit some approval for UI’s current reputation as No. 2 party school in the nation.

Then came the latest absentminded slip-up. The stickers — “Vote for” stickers plastered on front pages of The Daily Iowan without approval all over campus touting the names TOGA and HOUSE.

The DI sells advertising space in the form of stickers placed on the front page. Depending on the number of papers that get stickers, the business or organization paying for the ad is charged anywhere from $320 to $910. Again, the UISG party stickers were not authorized.

Party members have since apologized for the move, but the fact remains that no critical thought was to be found when deciding to use the stickers. That is what is disturbing. Both parties seem to be lacking necessary qualities to represent the university, and neither party seems to take its roles extremely seriously.

I’ll admit, some of the ideas from both parties are attractive. We endorsed HOUSE, including most of its ideas, earlier in the week. But both parties just seem to be going through the paces, creating childish but catchy slogans, inspiring loyalty through liquor, and making poor campaign moves without thinking them through.

These are our future leaders. And one of these parties will win the election. Let’s just hope the winning party displays more forward thinking in the future.


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