Within any body of government, whether at the federal or university level, there is an expectation of diplomacy and savoir-faire. While this professional decorum may be absent from the political arena in recent years, the leaders of our democracy and our community are representations of our values and expectations for those they govern.
During UMBC’s 2017 SGA election, there were many instances where SGA candidates conducted themselves in manners that can be described as unprofessional, and in some cases, their behavior merged into the realm of bullying. The way that some SGA candidates conducted themselves during this election season is unacceptable and wrong in itself.
On April 14, Jo McKenzie, a Massey supporter, posted a video on Facebook of SGA presidential candidate Collin Sullivan speaking on two separate occasions about proposed fiscal budgets. Clips were dichotomized of the candidate appearing to contradict himself about whether he supported cutting stipends for student organizations to pass the budget.
On the same day, the Sullivan campaign responded with a Facebook video of their own. In the video, Sullivan and his running mate, Chiamaka Ugboh, said that Sullivan misspoke at the debate and because of the miswording of Sullivan’s remarks, he was perceived to have contradicted himself.
In addition to this, Sullivan addressed how the matter was handled on social media, by displaying several comments from individuals running in the election on the original video. He went so far to call these comments “cyberbullying” and “targeted harassment.”
Members of the Massey campaign then began to address those who appeared in the response video in its comments section. Feyi Ojo, who at the time was running for a position as a Finance Board Representative on the Massey ticket, commented from her personal account, “Don’t be liars lmao,” as well as “’Omg we are so upset because people found out we’ve been lying and told the voters waaaa waaa’ lmao.”
These examples of alleged cyberbullying are not unprecedented, and show the immature and unprofessional nature of some candidates for SGA.
According to an anonymous UMBC student who ran for an SGA position this year, “I went into it hoping that everyone had the same drive to actually make a positive change on campus as that’s what I was hoping to do joining the election, but within a few days the atmosphere changed and things got aggressive. There were personal attacks happening. My feelings changed and I didn’t feel like it was an atmosphere I wanted to be involved in at all.”
While the political process does not always possess the friendliest or most inclusive atmosphere, it is expected that politicians carry themselves with a degree of professionalism. This idea does not leave out our Student Government Association, as the members of which should be role models for every undergraduate student on campus.
The toxic atmosphere that made its way into the 2017 SGA elections was completely unacceptable. SGA candidates need to hold themselves to much higher standards when it comes to their public and private conduct during election seasons.