Em Dems convention appeal a missed opportunity

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • February 16, 2012

At issue:
SGA rejects proposal to host political event on campus.
Our take:
Political communication is not about exclusivity

Last week, this editorial board commended the Communication Studies department for hosting a town hall forum that included Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Senator John Kerry. The strength of this event was not just its accessibility to members of our campus community, but its demonstration that the college is a major player on Boston’s political scene. Visiting students from a number of local schools excitedly took advantage of this opportunity on Emerson’s campus—they asked sharp questions, and appreciated our hospitality.
Following the lead of our administration, Emerson Democrats proposed a plan this week to hold a statewide convention that would bring members of various colleges together to exchange ideas at Emerson. After applying twice to host the conference, the College Democrats of Massachusetts selected our school this year. It was their hope that the event would draw names as big as Governor Deval Patrick and firebrand senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren, a founder of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Despite a thorough appeal, Emerson’s student government officials shot down Em Dems’ request to bring that high level of political engagement to the corner of Boylston and Tremont. Though the vote was not unanimous, leaders in dissent seemed to believe our student activities fee should only count toward events that exclusively benefit those who pay it.
“With this appeal, we are not only paying for Emerson students, we’re paying for students around the area,” said Jenna McPadden, the class of 2013 president. “I don’t feel comfortable having my constituents’ money be spent to pay for other students.”
This point-of-view is shortsighted, and in direct conflict with the example set by our administration. The generosity of hosting public forums—from events like last spring’s gubernatorial debate to the education town hall last week—speaks volumes to Emerson’s prominence in the community. Inviting others to share in our campus conversations is an integral part of Emerson’s dedication to open, constructive communication—and a hallmark of networking.
Communication is not about exclusivity. There is undeniable value in bringing others into the fold.
Emerson Democrats is an unabashedly and deliberately partisan group. Therefore, this event would benefit the College Democrats of Massachusetts—a concern raised by Class of 2015 President Ben Halls. However, even the base of the group’s SGA-allocated funds are used in the service of that political group. Therefore, there is no reason to deny Em Dems an appeal based on its ideological or political bent.
Surely, if a campus Republican organization rose to the level of SGA recognition, Emerson would be just as proud to host its event as a reflection of political diversity on campus. Fewer students may purchase tickets, but we’d commend their enthusiasm them just the same.
Emerson Democrats’ plans may be lofty—after all, the governor and Professor Warren are busy people. But we remember when SGA granted the Communication, Politics, and Law Association funds to cover a highly successful Iceland trip this past weekend, which at first did not seem realistic or feasible. Emerson students have repeatedly risen to the occasion of logistical hurdles. We encourage Em Dems to consider appealing again, and urge SGA to imagine the advantages of hosting an open convention.
Emerson Democrats deserve the chance to organize an event worthy to bear Emerson’s name—one that’s worth every cent of our student activities fee.