Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An interesting statement

I recently received an emailed statement made by some of the candidates running in this election. The statement is as follows:

The following represents a joint statement by Blake Frederick, Paul Korczyk, David Nogas, Sonia Purewal, Iggy Rodriguez, and Jeremy Wood:

Recently, the International Business Club elected to endorse a number of candidates for Executive positions in the AMS races, claiming that their "executive team has reviewed the platforms and spoken with the various AMS candidates." This is blatantly false. None of the candidates who signed their names here were contacted by the International Business Club. It should be noted that our complaint is not specifically with the individuals the club chose to endorse, but rather, the misrepresentation of the process as one involving an inclusive review complete with candidate interviews. In theory, there is nothing wrong with endorsing, or not endorsing candidates simply on the basis of their public statements and platforms, but it should be made clear what the process applied entailed. Students deserve to know the true nature of the process that is used to choose candidates for endorsement. Endorsements are a powerful tool for expressing particular viewpoints, but when they are issued claiming due diligence when none was done, their legitimacy must be called into question. We do not wish to attack the club, the candidates they endorsed, or their ability to issue endorsements. We seek to provide transparency of the process used to students through this joint statement, so that they will be informed as to the dishonesty used by the executive of the International Business Club when describing the methods utilized to determine candidates to endorse.

Now, I'm not sure if the club ever said that they interviewed those specific people- simply that they had "spoken with the various AMS candidates". I understand how this may be misleading, however. My question is, however- do endorsements make a difference? I would argue that they might in an important election (for instance, I felt that Powell's endorsement of Obama was significant- not statistically, but you know what I mean). But on a campus of several tens of thousands of students, most of whom don't even know who most of the candidates are, let alone the endorsers, it seems like it wouldn't actually play that big of a role. If you look at who tends to vote, and how they make up their minds, I find that most people either rely on those more knowledgeable than them to give them advice, or they may go and read candidates' platforms/read blogs/go to debates, or they may be told by candidates or candidates' friends to vote for them. There are very few people who are actually interested in the elections, and those who are tend to get informed- and I find that the more informed one is, the less of a difference endorsements actually make. If anything, they speak only of an issue of trust- that someone in an office trusts you enough to say that you'd be good in the position- and even then, the endorsement is powerful because it's assumed that people reading it know who the person endorsing the candidate is, how well they've done their job, and how much they trust them. So really, it sort of goes back to being friends with a friend of the candidate and to being informed. At least, that's my take. Unless, of course, you're endorsed by Obama. Or Putin. Both would be kind of awesome, especially if they both endorsed you...

Having a business club endorse commerce candidates hardly comes as a surprise. Neither does the fact that some of their "research" was conducted over facebook- limited privacy settings sure are great for journalism! However, it's their right as a club to go about doing their endorsements in whatever way they'd like- doing them wrong (and by wrong, I mean- not actually reading platforms, or not looking at other candidates) simply makes them lose their objectivity, which I find is important, although not always possible, when someone makes an endorsement. You just hope that bias motivates one to do better research- particularly that which involves looking into the other candidates.

The one thing I find rather amusing, however, is that had they not said that they actually had talked to the candidates, or implied that they'd done so (maybe even in person), this controversy wouldn't exist. After all, there's no way of checking to see if someone has read the platforms of the candidates- particularly not when they simply post a list of people they endorse. Secondly, given that it's a club in which execs probably personally know some of the people running for office, should it really be all that surprising that they chose to endorse 3/3 commerce candidates, or that they didn't look into the other candidates? After all, even if they'd done all their research, it's still likely that their initial biases still colour their perception of platforms, no matter how objective they try to be. I understand that the qualm is about representing information accurately, but this isn't something that can usually be proven- it just so happens that in this case, it was a blatant transgression.