Cleaning Up Corruption

By VISHESH SHARMA, sophomore

Clubs are at the forefront of many of our extracurricular lives. They are where we establish connections and implement change—all under the guidance of club advisors. This past spring, when various clubs at JP selected a new group of leaders and representatives, we were told that our newly elected boards would be comprised of the most dedicated members. But in cases where popular vote is the dominant factor in determining elections, we see an entirely different pattern: friendships and sibling influences tend to overshadow the hard work and commitment of other candidates. Although these may be rare occurrences, manipulated elections diminish the lessons that clubs can teach us: the value of teamwork, dedication, and time management. Although our school has taken measures to prevent corruption by installing club advisors, school clubs that still rely on popular vote remain susceptible to bias and connection-based promotions. Therefore, for those clubs that conduct elections solely through a popular vote, it is up to us—the student body—to set aside our personal connections and make sacrifices for the club in order to ensure its overall quality.

From joining a club to running for an executive board position, personal connections play an indispensable role in politics. For example, requirements to run for office can be “met” through relationships with students who hold prominent positions; this means that some board members of clubs will throw their support behind people who have supported them in the past regardless of their merit. In recent years, this type of exchange has become almost normal in our nation’s political atmosphere. Thankfully, school clubs only resemble but do not exactly mirror our actual politicians. However, we should be cautious of tradeoff deals that may occur, however minor, within our school club community. The deals discourage potential members from joining, and current members who pour in countless hours of work lose the motivation to continue devoting time to such a club.

Because of these unfair shortcuts, unqualified students may rise to the top, decreasing the effectiveness of the club as a whole. However, if club members see that decisions are made based only on qualifications, they would then have the motivation to go the extra mile and meet those qualifications. And those same people might even dissuade others from thinking “he’s just doing it for college applications” or “I think my friend will do a better job because I know him personally.” Presidential elections in the United States are affected in the same way. Voters will vote for a presidential candidate simply because he or she is a Democrat or Republican, instead of focusing on a candidate’s experience and capabilities. Often, the speaking and public relations skills of a candidate are more important than the actual substance of his or her speech; but a charismatic candidate does not always equate to a good one.

I have personally been involved in a few elections in my time here at JP Stevens, and I will admit that I, too, have supported my friends in their elections without bothering to look at what other candidates have to offer. But more recently, I have come to see the importance of truly objective voting. We need to select competent leaders who have clear goals and aspirations for their clubs. I often hear about unfair executive board elections by those who have lost their position to someone else. Many times these people strongly believe they have been wronged, prompting them to spread the idea that these clubs are corrupted. Whether or not these rumors are true, they degrade a club’s reputation and restrict club growth.

How can we address the clear issues with election processes that are based exclusively on popular vote? First, we can keep these processes as transparent as possible to clear all misconceptions. Transparency means that all members are aware of how each candidate is nominated and subsequently selected, whether through a point-system, through a holistic evaluation of an application, or a combination of interviews, past performance, and an application. After the vote is cast by the general members of the club, the unbiased opinion of the adviser could make the final call. Popular vote is a great way of keeping all club members involved in the process but it shouldn’t be the sole decision maker in this process.

While there still exist many imperfections within the political appointment processes of both the school and the real world, school politics are on a much smaller scale and are accordingly far more manageable. Maintaining honesty, transparency, and objectivity when determining new executive boards is both essential for ensuring the quality of a club experience and for preparing our mindsets for the future, when we are able to participate in a wider range of elections and promotions. Let’s reward hard work and dedication, not charisma and personal connections. Whether we vote for a candidate for a school club or for our country, it is our duty to vote fairly. We might not be able to persuade the entire populace of the United States to vote after doing ample research on the candidates, but we can most definitely make a difference through our own votes for the most capable individuals right here in JP Stevens.

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