Bijal Chhadva and Andrew Aubery spent $1,000 and upward of 50 hours each week campaigning for student body president and vice president.
Of course, Chhadva thinks the expenses were worth it, having won a runoff last week to claim the presidency. But Chhadva, who last year spent $250 in a failed presidency bid, is not convinced the money spent on his campaign was a critical factor.
“There might be a link (between money spent and election results), but also you have to realize that last year, the number of hours per week that I put in was probably 2 or 3,” Chhadva said. “Everybody has posters and boards, and everybody has flyers. The thing that helped set us apart from the other candidates was the time we spent talking to people one-on-one and spending as much time answering individual questions.”
Chhadva said he began campaigning about two weeks before spring break. His campaigning drew $200 in donations from students, with the rest of his financing coming from his and Aubery’s pockets.
According to Chhadva, candidates were allowed to spend up to $1,503.65 campaigning before the general election, with an additional $250 permitted for candidates advancing to the runoff.
The election took a heavy toll on Chhadva and Aubery, with most of the campaigning coming with final exams looming.
“Towards the end we both ended up skipping a couple of classes,” Chhadva said. “We’re just like any other students on this campus. We have finals coming up, and with the last week of classes here we have papers and work due just like everyone else. We have lost a lot of study time right before finals, but it was definitely worth it, because we can get caught up.”
It was during his campaign that Chhadva realized the best way to combat apathy was simply talking to students. Chhadva’s primary on-campus initiative is to form relationships with the presidents of every student organization. He said those student leaders will be anxious to be involved, if only SG can better keep them informed.
“While campaigning, I realized that a lot of students didn’t know why it was important for them to vote. I don’t think apathy (among the students) will be a problem, but what actually is an issue is that individual students not being aware that student government controls an $8 million budget.
“Keeping students involved is going to be my responsibility. I don’t think anyone has really ever tried before to keep students involved (on such a large scale). I would say I have a good relationship with 100 or 150 of these presidents. And of course my vice president and cabinet members will be involved in that as well.”
Chhadva acknowledged that his goals are easy ones to set, saying he knows past presidents have tried to solve the problems to no avail.
“(Current president) Omar Khan himself actually really set a precedent. He brought a lot of student organizations into the picture, getting a lot of people involved,” he said. “But I have a plan that involves reaching out to the students: reaching out with better advertising, possibly even start a student government newspaper…I’m sure (other administrations) have tried to do this, and I honestly don’t know why it didn’t work. It is an ideal situation that this all works, but I am convinced we have the right plan and the right people to set things in motion.”