Author; Brennan E. Wells;
The spring semester is a signal to every HBCU student across Black America. Depending on your involvement in your HBCU this signal may mean a many number of things. For some, it may mean that the time has arrived to earnestly seek out that summer internship, for others it may mean that the grades you earned in the fall need to be bolstered to average out a decent GPA for the academic year and for a select few it dawns the time to gear up for your campaign for Student Government Association office.
As important as all three of those may be, this piece will focus on those who are preparing for SGA office and the students who will cast a ballot. If the past presidential elections are any indication, we must be wary of the stale narrative of “picking between the lesser of two evils”, for there are differences between any two individuals running for office. No matter how small the difference may be between candidates, because even small differences matter.
Of course, there are other platitudes used when it comes to election time, even on HBCU campuses and those must be done away with. These platitudes range from SGA elections being a popularity contest, SGA officers cannot impact change on campus, and the all time most used indifferent slight against democratic participation, being my vote will not make a difference. Surely, if we can make differences in our own lives, then sure we must be able to extend change outside of own existence. Further, SGA elections will always be a popularity contest as long as HBCU students describe it as such. Moreover, HBCUs work for their students, not the other way around, so students wants, wishes, and concerns are heard and addressed in the manner in which they are advocated for.
I myself have run for SGA office so my biases inform this writing, but as those biases inform this writing so too does my four years of political education, multiple political internships, and extensive readings on the subject matter. I assert this not to impress, but press upon you the reader, the urgency and seriousness in which you should take your own SGA elections at your HBCU.
Popularity should never inform your voting decision, nor is every student equipped to effectively hold office, despite the best of their intentions, and vague promises of change do not make a platform. HBCU and college campus are a reflection of the current political landscape in America, thus SGA elections now revolve around outreach, fundraising, flashy social media campaigns, and endorsements from influential groups. I ask you the reader to look past these veils and dive deep into the specifics. Seek out your grievances with your HBCU and press these issues to the candidates. Do not wait for those campaigning to tell you what you should want in a platform, change within your HBCU, or what you should want in a candidate. Independent thinking, research, and sincere participation in the democratic process should guide your ballot.
Placing the wrong individual in office has dire consequences that impact your HBCU long after you have graduated. I say this in the knowledge that the wheels of reform are slow, but deliberate so a vote for the wrong candidate will lead your HBCU in the wrong direction for many a year. Moreover, the state of the HBCU community is in dire straights. We see this at Howard University, Morehouse, and every HBCU that is now affected by the Trump administration’s new budget proposal.
Every vote matters, regardless of what opposing viewpoints may assert. The time is now to do more, desire better, and achieve higher heights. The vote you cast in your SGA will be a clarion call to your fellow students, friends, and future students of your HBCU your views, thoughts, and desires concerning your HBCU. Will your vote be for transparency, efficiency, a focus on development, professor equity, more scholarships for underserved majors, improved facilities, improved quality in food, expanded scholastic opportunities or institutional independence ?
We all one day will be held into account for our actions and our votes. What will your vote say? Remember, we are not entitled to an opinion, rather we are only entitled to an informed opinion. As scholars we out to be swayed only by logic, ethos, reason, evidence, and facts.