Two top editors from the University of Texas at Austin's student humor magazine have been elected president and vice president of the school's student government. The pair's highly surprising victory -- announced late last week -- comes after a campaign described as initially funny and then increasingly serious.
It was also new media savvy. Apparently, instead of campaigning heavily in person prior to the final run-off election, Texas Travesty editors Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu relied upon UT supporters who spread their message via the social media app Yik Yak. They also created a very, very funny and buzzworthy video attack ad -- against themselves.
As Riley Brands, editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan, tells me, "It was a largely satirical campaign, but it resonated with a lot of people fed up with the insularity of SG. NOBODY expected them to win. Their opponents were two SG powerhouses who were the odds-on favorites from the start. More remarkable is the fact that the Travesty candidates won by nearly 20 points in the run-off -- after trailing by about as much in the first round of voting."
Travesty editors stage a 'joke' student government campaign each year, but this was the first time the pub's chosen candidates were actually elected to office. While the pair have sounded off about issues of genuine campus concern -- including a planned push to remove a statue of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis -- they also continued to rely upon humor in their first post-election statements. For example, they proposed an Adam Sandler movie night to help build a relationship with the student government assembly.
In a report on the Travesty team's victory, the Daily Texan features a pair of telling quotes from UT students about the possible reasons behind their win -- and the accompanying high student voter turnout:
"I think Xavier and Rohit proved that you can't just do the same old thing and do it better -- you have to do something really different. ... They made campus excited about elections, which is something that's really rare to see. They have fresh and exciting ideas, and they show that they can have a good time while they're talking about them, too."
What's next for the duo? As Brands mentions to me, while they have outlined their platform points, no one is quite sure what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.