Making Student Government Elections a Laughing Matter

Many colleges and universities are about to -- if they haven't done so already -- participate in an event that rivals the sun rising in terms of importance: student government elections.
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As we enter March, many colleges and universities are about to -- if they haven't done so already -- participate in an event that rivals the sun rising in terms of importance: student government elections.

While the festivities are generally more notable for the litter they generate as opposed to the student empowerment they represent, what's unquestionable is the entertainment value of a down and dirty election that only 10 percent of the student body votes in -- and that's in a good year.

At the University of Texas alone, the past two student government elections have been wrought with scandal and dramatic story lines worthy of either the West Wing or an early afternoon telenovela, depending on who you ask.

The past few years the Texas Travesty, the official humor publication of the University of Texas, has run a candidate of its own for student government president in order to bring a little levity to the election season -- in essence, making a joke of an institution that many students consider, well, a joke.

While running fake candidates is hardly original to the Travesty -- in fact, in 2006, Jay Bundy, then a student at Penn State University ran a joke campaign and won, vowing to give "the worst performance to the best of his ability" during his short-lived tenure as student government president -- what is notable is the dedication and execution of the students who run.

Last year the Travesty ran Aaron Walther, who played a ruthless Soviet dictator that vowed to gouge out the eyes of students so that they could no longer peer into the inner workings of their leaders. The year before they ran Zak Kinnaird, a candidate whose platform didn't stretch beyond his need to pad his resume and the fact that he looked good in a suit.

This year they took their "joke" candidate in a different direction, running two students (well more accurately, a student and a robot) who have traveled back in time from the future to run for student government in an effort to stop Natalie Butler, the odds on favorite to win this year's Student Government election, from doing just that. As their campaign video below explains, they're running in an effort to get students to avoid the horrible post-apocalyptic future that awaits them if Butler wins.

Butler has taken their campaign and the extra publicity it has provided her with in stride, knowing full-well that another Jay Bundy situation is not going to happen at the largest state university in Texas. At the same time, David McQuary and Hannah Oley, the students running on behalf of the Travesty, have given the student body a reason to laugh during a time of the year when a select few students tend to take themselves just a little bit too seriously.

While it's arguable that running for student government on false pretenses accomplishes little, what truly separates the Travesty candidates from their opponents is the fact that it's very clear what their motivation is in running in the first place. In that respect, the candidates based on lies may be the most truthful on the ballot.

Footage of the Travesty candidates at the UT Student Government debate:

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