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Opinion: Keeping AS employees from making public candidate endorsements disenfranchises Western's community

Associated Students Elections are a time of year at Western where it really matters that you keep up with what’s happening. There are candidate debates on Facebook, campaigns being run on Instagram and discussions to be read on Twitter.

However, there’s a group of people missing from these conversations, a group that might be the one of most relevant groups of all. According to section three of AS Election code, AS employees are not allowed to publicly endorse a candidate. That’s a problem. While an office within the AS shouldn’t endorse a candidate officially, the people working in the office should be allowed to publicly share their perspective about candidates.

This year, almost half of the 13 people running for an AS board position have worked within the AS before. That means that a select group of people, their coworkers, have seen first-hand the work they’ve done and the qualifications they have, but can’t speak about their experience without violating the election code.

AS employees are required by that code to stay silent when their coworkers decide to run for office, whether or not their coworkers have excelled or failed at the requirements of their position. This means that AS employees could not only be kept from elevating the platform of someone who shares a lot of their values, but that they’re also kept from sharing their perspective on why their coworker isn’t a good fit for a position of power.

Students employed by the AS also include everyone who is paid to work at the Ethnic Students Center; this means many prominent members of Western’s community of color are being silenced by this code. Also working at the AS is the staff of the Student Advocacy and Identity Resource Center, which encompasses many departments like the Queer Resource Center and Disability Outreach center. The people working here also can’t endorse candidates.

Working at the AS means being stuck at the intersection of professionality and individuality. You’re an employee at an organization with elected leaders, yes, but you’re also a student who will be affected by the choices those leaders make. Do you forfeit your right to publicly share your opinion in an election when you sign your HR papers and become an AS employee? According to the code, you do.

To deny those people the right to share their opinion disenfranchises the entirety of Western as a whole. After all, how can we make an informed decision to vote if we can’t check the candidates’ references? Currently, less than 20% of students vote in the AS election. With more outreach from students who are AS employees, those numbers could change.

This is a section in the code that affects everyone on campus when it’s time to vote. It’s time that’s changed.

The Western Front Editorial Board is composed of Julia Berkman, Laura Place and Stella Harvey

*Correction: The ROP is now named the Student Advocacy and Identity Resource Center (SAIRC)
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