President's Handbook - Part Two
Want to see someone's true colors? Run for an officer position. This is by far one of the most difficult times of the semester. This is where politicking can turn ugly, tempers may flair up and friends can become enemies. One or more candidates may be tempted to engage in aggressive advertising or even outright bribery. Yes, this has happened before.
How you conduct yourself is more important than the result of the election
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, there is potential for all sorts of "persuasion." The classic saying, "the second one always gets caught," is entirely true. You might be thinking, "But winning is all that matters." No, that is wrong. Regardless if you win or lose, people will remember your campaign. The question is, do you want others to know you won by shady deals or that you won fair and square? Spread this message to your officers: winners are always ethical.
As President you should use every means possible to keep the situation civilized. Early on in an electoral semester, talk to each officer in private and ask them what role, if any, they would like to run for. If you find out that two candidates are interested in the same position, the following section should serve as guidance on how to best defuse this powder keg. Do this within the first to second month to ensure all people involved know what is at stake. Do not tolerate any questionable campaigning.
My friends want to run for the same officer position!
It’s the worst case scenario: two (or more) candidates are your friends and determined to win. Make sure both (or however many eligible) officers who are running for the same position are aware of this conflict and emphasize that they should not turn this into a public affair. This is a need-to-know situation. Have a meeting with the Faculty Adviser and the officers to discuss possible options.
Sometimes one or both parties want all or nothing; this may happen. When it does, it comes down to the voters. The final decision may rest in your hands to break a tie. Do not play political football with this issue.
Your decision may cost you a friend
I cannot stress this enough. If you must be the tie-breaking vote, choose who you genuinely believe is the better candidate. I sincerely hope you are never put in that position as it is the most difficult situation to overcome.
It is good to find younger students who want to become active with your organization. This is especially if they want to be officers. The best practice is to announce at the beginning of each meeting, “The following officer positions will be opening for next semester…” Students who are interested will seek to learn more.
Help them transition from students to apprentices. You and the officers should engage them and stimulate their interest for the organization. The more the opportunities apprentices know about, the better the odds of success for the following semester.
Moving up in the Ranks
A student who jumps from a minor officer role or even just being a member to becoming President, all too frequently cannot handle the amount of responsibility. Yes, that student may benefit by having that title on their résumé to get that edge for an internship, however, it is unfair to other more qualified candidates. Additionally, it is pointless when he or she sits before the interviewer unable to give substantial support on that subject.
It’s better to have a student work his way up, becoming familiar with how your organization works and the responsibilities associated with each role. This process builds upon itself. An officer should be able to effectively communicate what he or she has contributed to the organization. Ideally, he or she will have enough experiences to use it in an interview. Hosting meetings is helpful; however, the student should impress the interviewer with a success story.
Everyone is graduating next semester!
Despite appearances, this is more manageable. Make sure everyone in the organization aware that there are opportunities to become an officer. Announce it at every meeting and every email. If you think that repeating yourself this frequently is pointless, you will be surprised. Only those willing and able will seek to become officers, the rest will not bother.
Talk to students to see if this would be of interest to them. Those who show authentic interest should be rewarded by keeping them in the loop. These people are your apprentices. Keep your apprentices informed and the transition will be much smoother.
“I’ve never been to any meetings but I want to be an officer.”
This is effectively telling an employer, “I haven’t the vaguest idea you’re your company does, but I want a job here.” Ask questions that require them to provide a good answer. "What can you contribute to the association?" is a powerful and effective inquiry capable of stopping most of them. Be advised, it is not a bullet-proof defense.
Rules of Campaigning
Review your organization's and school's policies for officer positions
Plan ahead. Review with a faculty or staff member what is acceptable campaigning. Just as the local government ultimately answers to the federal government, your organization ultimately answers to your school. Play by the rules.
Who are you?
After you have learned what is acceptable campaigning, define yourself. What makes you, out of all other candidates, the best person for the job? Could it be your work ethic that has driven you to obtain a high GPA? Perhaps your time volunteering demonstrates your goodwill towards others. What skills has your job/internship helped you develop that you can use in other environments? Develop a plan and play to your strengths.
What's in it for me?
Everyone wants to know what you can do for them. You need to be able to articulate how your plans will satisfy them. Address real issues that you believe can resolve. Propose plans that are feasible. This involves researching the students' interests. Most important of all; keep your promises.
Always Look Your Best During the Electoral Process
People will notice it and it will remember it. Be polite and considerate to everyone you meet. Have a pitch ready for new people you meet. "Hi I'm Candidate X and I am running for President of the ABC Club." You have identified yourself and they know what to expect of you in the future.
Overcoming Distractions and Being Memorable
We live in a world of distractions. You need to capture the audience's attention and ensure they remember you in a positive light. As always, where permissible, hang up fliers, posters and utilize other advertisements. Your opponents will be doing the same. For best results, resort to unconventional tactics, again, as long as it is permissible. Unintentionally breaking the rules and losing is embarrassing.
That's What Friends are for!
Word of mouth has always been the most powerful tool to communicate. Ask your friends for help! Social events are acceptable for campaigning. What results come from it are your concerns. If you can align yourself with other individuals for your campaign to create a party, go for it.
If you resort to unethical strategies and belittling another candidate's campaign, you do not deserve to be President.
"My opponent is the scum of the earth!"
Politics in general are divisive. Openly belittling your opponent(s) is petty and childish. Don't be surprised if people do not vote for you just because of that. In one debate I saw, Candidate X spoke highly of her personal accomplishments and received applause. Candidate Y, sitting directly next to her, was highly critical of Candidate X. Candidate Y received no applause at all. After the debate several students spoke to Candidate X stating that Candidate Y delivered a low blow and that they would instead be voting for Candidate X just on those malicious comments alone.
This applies more to social media and direct interaction than it does posting fliers everywhere. With social media, many people see Facebook as their "personal space" and by updating status every day with "VOTE FOR ME!" is likely to ignored. Don't remind someone who you met with just the other day.
Do not manipulate others to gain their vote
- Bribery or quid pro quo - "I will make it worth your while if you vote for me."
- Misleading communications - "Here's my number, let's go out some time." This is promising a relationship to curry votes.
- "I heard..." - spreading rumors, true or false, is a fast and easy way to incite drama.
- Threatening others - "If you don't vote for me..." This is especially unacceptable if someone is threatening bodily, psychological, and/or emotional harm. Threats should be reported to the proper authorities.
- Ostracize someone because the individual(s) do not intend to vote for you.
- Ostracize someone because the individual(s) wish(es) to remain neutral.
Laws on the Books
The information in this section is taken from the links displayed. This is not legitimate legal counsel. Its sole purpose is to educate others. I do not take credit for it.
Invasion of Privacy
1. Intrusion of solitude - physical or electronic intrusion into one's private affairs. Hacking a computer is an example of intrusion upon privacy. In determining whether intrusion has occurred, one of two following items must be considered:
a) Common sense privacy is expected. For example, Internet privacy issues may arise whereby personal information shared with various websites may be disclosed to the public due to security negligence, and
b) deception, misrepresentation, or fraud occur to gain admission and "gather information" without publication. Notice that publication is not necessary to define intrusion.
2. Public disclosure of private facts – the dissemination of private information which a reasonable person would find objectionable.
Defamation of Character
Defamation is false and unprivileged spoken words or written publication, which exposes any living person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or which causes him/her to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him/her in his/her trade or occupation.
For example, if a person or the news media says or writes something about you that is understood to lower your reputation, or that keeps people from associating with you, defamation has occurred. However, if someone says something false about someone who has died, as reprehensible as that may be, in most states it is not considered defamatory. No legal action can be taken on behalf of a dead person. Only a living person can be defamed.
Why Include This?
At one point in time, I heard a story about how one candidate allegedly won an election by going to various ethnic associations and claiming that his opponent was a racist. I do not know if the story is true or not. Slandering another candidate is a despicable strategy to win as well as a criminal offense.
Protecting Your Reputation
No, you're not paranoid
Do not be surprised if your competition tries every dirty trick to win. Unfortunately, this is a very real possibility. It is also a very real possibility for you to lose because of an unethical rival. If you do lose, it is better to know that you lost honorably than it is to get caught cheating and be shamefully disqualified.
If malicious and false rumors are being spread about you
It all comes down to having reliable witnesses and factual information. Document everything - names, dates, times, locations and how you encountered them. Report these incidents to your faculty and staff.
You may be thinking, "I'll be a tattle tale." No, that is absolutely wrong. This isn’t high school. This is college. Your reputation is on the line. Do not allow it to be ruined because of the games played by petty power players. Accusations such as racism, sexism, physical/emotional abuse, etc. are serious accusations and have long term consequences. If this happens, I strongly suggest you inform the proper authorities, such as the school and if necessary, the police.
Can You Keep a Secret? Of course! (Not!)
By throwing your hat into the ring, you are now living in a glass house. Don't throw stones. I know you've heard this countless times, beware of what you post on the Internet. We sometimes forget who we're friends with on Facebook - it may wind up being the candidate you are competing against. That person has had access to your profile information since you connected. Your Facebook friend knows your behavior and history. Your new competitor will continue to have access unless you place restrictions.
All of us have mutual friends - and unfortunately - your mutual friends may not be on your side when you need them. I'm not saying trust no one. What I am saying is control yourself, be aware of who you are with, and don't lash out where other people can witness it.