By Logan Blakeslee
Running for a position on the S.A. E-Board can sometimes feel like Don Quixote charging at a windmill. Without the necessary social capital, it’s a task that is very easy to miscomprehend, and failure is nothing short of spectacular. I begin this article with the concession that I was not the victor in either the 2021-2022 or 2023-2024 S.A. presidential elections, and the temporary sting of defeat has given way to reflection on my campaign and the conduct of the election itself. May this article serve as a guide, or perhaps a warning, to future conservative students who wish to fulfill my quixotic quest to run for student government.
To give some background on the situation, it has been nearly a decade since conservative or libertarian students at Binghamton University had any major impact on the Student Association. This was during the time when campus elections were held in-person, and in that strange, forgotten era, S.A. President Dillon Schade was the last prominent figure (as far as I can tell) to carry substantial conservative support and win the presidency. His ensuing resignation over racial insensitivity likely crashed the joint caucus of libertarians and conservatives in Student Congress, bringing a sorry end to right-wing governance on campus.
I would also like to briefly highlight former S.A. Vice President of Finance, Adam Shamah, who was the chief editor for the Binghamton Review and beneficiary of the Leadership Institute’s training for campus elections. Mark Soriano, a former S.A. President, and Aaron Ricks, former Vice President of Academic Affairs, were also closely associated with the Binghamton Review and College Republicans many years ago. Yet another former Vice President of Finance, Karl Bernhardsen, later held office as a Broome County legislator as a Republican. In modern times, however, liberals and progressives have utterly dominated the Student Association. Despite all this, I urge readers not to lose hope.
In making the decision to run for president, I was already putting myself on the line as a conservative individual. I had made enemies in Student Congress who did not enjoy my open defense of the Review or free speech in general. My opposition to the “Abolish Greek Life” movement on campus certainly did not attract favor from Pipe Dream. Furthermore, my platform was entirely focused on the college administration and campus services, which made it more difficult to address matters that were important to multicultural organizations. Each of these hurdles must be overcome in order to succeed in future elections.
My first major piece of advice to potential candidates is that early preparation is essential. Run for community councils or S.A. Congress if you are a freshman or sophomore, build a network of non-political (and a few political) clubs and organizations to connect with, and never stop moving up the ranks. It’s safer to become a president if you’ve already been a vice president, so aim for that as quickly as possible. Name recognition is highly valuable, so don’t be shy in attending events that may or may not cater to your interests. Other students will appreciate the gesture if you show respect.
A second helpful tip would be to get outside assistance quickly, preferably before the election cycle formally begins. I highly recommend either taking a Leadership Institute Campus Election Workshop or getting in touch with the Campus Victory Project. These programs exist to train conservative students how to run for office at their universities, and have a tremendous record of success. The sooner you make use of these resources, the better. In some instances, these programs can also provide campaign funding or visuals like posters or palm cards.
My third piece of advice is to prepare for incompetence from within the Student Association. Gather as many politically-minded friends as possible to run for office alongside you, as they will be your network for gathering information and supporters, and they might also shield you from biased S.A. officials. Such officials are, sadly, legion. To my surprise and disappointment, there is ample evidence that the Elections Committee had little interest in running a fair election for the 2023-2024 cycle:
The cycle operated as it normally would up until the night of March 7, 2023, when the scheduled candidate debate was suddenly moved from Lecture Hall 9 to Old Union Hall. The announcement for this was made just a few hours before the debate began, causing confusion among many attendees. The reason for this change was never provided—at least not to the public. This would have been forgivable if it were not the first of many bad decisions to follow.
An important part of S.A. candidate debates is the chance for general attendees to join with their fellow community members to make endorsements. This has been standard practice for virtually every student election at Binghamton University. However, students were not informed of this tradition at the most recent debate and no communication was made to attendees except for some community council leaders and members of S.A. Congress. Seeing as most students left the debate by the time it ended (midnight), this heavily restricted the total number of people who were eligible to participate in the endorsement process.
Even worse, the Elections Committee gave community council leaders less than 24 hours to make endorsements, in a severe break in historical precedent. As a result of this, and the fact that endorsements were due at 8AM on March 9, multiple campus communities had no chance of reaching a final decision. Susquehanna, Hinman, Hillside, and Mountainview therefore did not make any endorsements for S.A. president, while the down-ballot races showed similar exclusion towards campus communities. Elections Committee Chairperson Christopher Ribarić falsely claimed to give 24 hours notice, and when this was proven to be untrue (only 16.25 hours were given, as testified by one of the Vice Presidents of Hillside), he stated that it was not the committee’s responsibility to inform community council leaders as they “should already know the timeline from the management policies.”
There is no timeline for candidate endorsements anywhere in the S.A. Management Policies, the S.A. Constitution, or in the 2023 Elections Code. The Judicial Board, which is expected to be fluent in all governing documents, somehow believed this false statement in an official hearing despite contrary evidence.
The next concerning moment came during a secretive Internal Affairs meeting on March 15 that was held to discuss a number of other election-related issues. I was not the only candidate who raised complaints to the Judicial Board for alleged misconduct by the Elections Committee, and the foremost of these other complaints was aimed at the spectacle that was the race for B.U. Council Representative. For context, the preliminary results for all other races were called on March 13. The B.U. Council Representative race would not be called until March 29. It should be noted that certification for all races was meant to take place on March 21, yet the Judicial Board ruled that “Operating out-of-line relative to the timeline of the elections code is not against the rules according to this year’s elections code, the management policies, nor the SA Constitution.” Why bother having rules if they’re merely suggestions?
The official cause for this delay is “difficulties” experienced by the Elections Committee while collaborating with the Graduate Student Organization. The truth is that a few students pointed out the frightening possibility that the votes were miscounted. This raised the odds of a new election being called, something that the S.A. was desperate to avoid. During the Internal Affairs meeting, a member of the Elections Committee referred to everyone who raised complaints about their misconduct as “idiots” and “trash.” Another spoke of how president-elect Elisheva Ezor “deserved to win.” Compounding this, S.A. Vice President of Finance Daniel Croce made the same ethical mistake that David Hatami once did. Namely, he made an endorsement on Instagram in early March, though the story is now gone, despite already being an E-Board member (thus violating Management Policy IV.13) and previously pledging not to get involved in the presidential race. Croce supported Ezor, indicating that if you have the right people on your side, the rules don’t matter.
Speaking of finance, I would like to take the time to make a handful of corrections from my last Binghamton Review article. According to Daniel Croce, in a meeting I had with him shortly before the election, the Student Activity Fee has not been increased since 2014-2015. It is still mandatory and may be increased in the future. Additionally, Croce insisted that the S.A. effectively spends every dollar it raises, but was unwilling to offer proof of this under the guise of privacy and regulatory policy. My claim that hundreds of thousands of dollars went unspent seems to be true around the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whistleblowers on the Finance Committee, however, informed me that the S.A. still wastes thousands of dollars annually by deliberately limiting club budgets and expenditures.
I ran for office because the S.A. is a social clique that cares moreso for power than good governance. Clubs and organizations depend on it for budgets and charters, but little else. I saw potential in it for real advocacy, and it is regrettable that that change will have to wait. For the hopeful student who reads this with political ambitions of their own, do not be discouraged. Remember the history of those who came before you and think of any new directions you can take to achieve victory.
On a separate note, I recommend bringing back paper ballots and in-person voting, a feature which has not existed on campus since 2016 (the poster advertising it in the Classroom Wing has never been removed). Two-factor authentication has proven to be a barrier to students who wish to vote, but were unable due to connectivity issues. Perhaps in-person and online voting can be done simultaneously, as challenging as that might be, but higher turnout is worth it.
I would also like to say that Elisheva Ezor herself is a wonderful person, and she campaigned to the best of her ability, which is why she easily outpaced her competitors. I do not think that the Elections Committee’s misdeeds undercut her rightful victory. Likewise, I am very glad that Nora Monasheri was elected B.U. Council Representative, even though the S.A. barely certified her results by a margin of 11-9. A good sense of humor and a strong work ethic goes a long way for improving this campus. Lastly, I thank all my voters from the bottom of my heart for believing in me and my cause. You were willing to break up the status quo.
Writing this article has been almost therapeutic for me, and I hope it was informative for you. I pass my torch to future generations of windmill-chasing politicians.