By Hannah Beausang
This year’s student government elections at San Diego State University garnered national media attention, stirring up a controversy after an unconventional campaign video went viral. The buzz was centered on a one-minute YouTube video featuring the student smoking a cigar while women in bikinis fawned over him. The girls are seemingly having the time of their lives while in his presence, while the candidate, Luke Dzierzanowski, stoically oversees in silence.
While Dzierzanowski, who ran for an Associated Students representative position, may have been the only largely memorable candidate in this year’s elections, his campaign didn’t cultivate constructive student involvement. The video screams a lack of professionalism, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of viewers while tarnishing the reputation of SDSU and its student government.
Dzierzanowski took a similar attitude with his campaign statement, which was presented to students as they cast their ballots online.
“Hello students,” Dzierzanowski wrote. “Look at your leaders, now back at me. Now back at your leaders, now back at me. Sadly, they aren’t me. Vote for a winner. Vote for me.”
While Dzierzanowski’s campaign made a mockery SDSU’s student government and current elected officials, “A.S.” actually plays a wide-ranging role in university affairs. It is tasked with controlling a more than $20 million budget, running the gym, Aquaplex, and Children’s Center, along with organizing campus-wide events. The executive board of student leaders is responsible for governing many of the university’s operations and representing students.
Despite the importance of A.S., the Spring 2014 A.S. elections closed with a meager 9.9 percent voter turnout, nearly eight percentage points below last year’s participation rates. Dzierzanowski received a slim count of 83 votes, coming in last place among his five competitors. Although Dzierzanowski’s campaign caused a splash – and probably boosted his ego – it did little to increase awareness for the importance of a democratic process in the election of student-government leaders.
SDSU has worked to distance itself from its previous “party school” reputation by attempting to encourage student involvement, increase diversity and bolster graduation rates. The attention from Dzierzanowski’s stunt only fuels the stereotype and detracts from the school’s attempts to be considered among the top universities in the state.
The video promotes a misogynistic attitude, which is even more jarring and insensitive in the wake of San Diego’s recent mayoral sexual harassment embarrassments. The clip showcases the idea of an outdated and offensive set of values, flaunting Dzierzanowski’s lack of regard for professionalism and equality while attempting to be elected to represent SDSU.
Students aspiring to be politicians – even on a student government level – need to show respect for the position they’re trying to get elected to, as well as to the people they may represent. Although one might draw the parallel to shock-tactics employed by “real-world” politicians, the video is a far cry from anything beneficial to the campaign. Future A.S. candidates and students in general should take a lesson from Dzierzanowski’s shameful video, and take their university government more seriously.
Maybe Dzierzanowski didn’t mean to be offensive, but hopefully future candidates will realize that bikini-clad women and out-of-date jokes are no longer a winning strategy at SDSU.
Hannah Beausang is a senior at San Diego State University and news editor of The Daily Aztec.