The election is over. It is summer vacation. People I meet still ask about what happened to the election. This shows how much busy they were during the semester that made them spring. So, this post comes as a natural extension of those discussions. A note of that memory, goes here.
The Graduate Student Association (GSA), University at Buffalo sent mail to everyone, every eligible graduate student about the opportunity to stand for election. This, I found was a good experience to have. For the fun of it. That day, the first thing I did after reaching the university, was to get the election candidate packet. The GSA office has two full time employees and all other positions are for elected and nominated members. So there is no part time position that available. All right, the GSA elected President and Vice President earn good money for the work. So that was another motivation for my candidacy. As part of the election I have to get the election petition signed by 25 supporters. That was easily done. I know lot of faces who were happy to sign the petition. There were a few who asked ” What do I gain by signing the petition?” , and some other who said ” I had done lot of this crap in undergrad, I don’t want to get into politics now”. They naturally did not understand what I wanted. May be my bad communication. I was determined to work on it. Because, later if the petition is signed by enough people I get to ask for votes top all random people on campus. So, I was ready for the challenge. I was the first person to submit the petition with more than enough number of supporters. I have many friends in the department who stood in actual queue and signed my petition. And there is my business team, most of them, eligible graduate students, who could sign the petition without asking. My job of collecting signature was easy. I did not stop at getting just 25 signatures. I got more than 8 from same department students, just in case they also signed for another candidate. I went further, because I had to tell people, now, that I am a candidate for election and they should consider voting for me. Also, as part of election I was to attend two senate meetings. This comes with the normal student perks of free pizza and soda. This was again fun to sit through, mostly due to the free food and the motivation to go on stage when elected. In the first senate meeting I found my competitor, who still needed a lot of signatures to complete the petition, while I was almost done with the required 25. I made a quick acquaintance. I did not have much time to indulge in a ton of conversation with anyone, remember this is in a busy spring semester, lot of assignments, project and part time work to do. So, I also had to keep conversations to the bare minimum, to save time and cover as many people as possible.
I go by stampede, the UB run bus. This helped me get some contacts. Also, being a regular at wellness center, Intercultural Diversity Center and Office of Student Engagement, gave me more contacts. My lab mates and at-work colleagues fellow-students started calling me “Vice President” already. They were very confident of the majority of the international students, especially from India (Bharath), would vote for me, because I am the only Indian standing! and only engineer! and only man! in the entire candidate list considering President, Vice President and Treasurer. This made my campaigning easier in the sense, when my friends call me “Vice President” the person who doesn’t know would ask in curiosity and then I could pitch in and say ” Vote for me”. Another good thing about the campaign is that the GSA would reimburse upto $20 for election campaign. I got some business cards with “Vote for me” written. I also know some excited friends who started writing on the UB Spectrum, the university newspaper, “Vote for Ajeya”. That was crazy. And I did not know it until someone posted that in one of the common whatsapp groups. I was wondering if that would be an election code violation. But other than I , me and myself I had no regular campaigners. I had folks who said they ask their friends to vote for me and so on. I had turned in the election packet containing petition papers and proof of campaign expenses to GSA. Whoever I met I could go ahead and ask their votes. If they were undergrads I would ask if they had any grad friends. Many did, and said they would ask on my behalf. Some undergrad friends were disappointed that they could not vote for me. That was great. The momentum was on.
Some of the friends wanted to vote for me on the condition that I know that they voted for me. They would call me up and vote (online) in front of me. That was good proof. Some graduated friends who had the UBIT still working tried to cast the vote. They were so excited. But the system is fool proof, they were not eligible to vote. I was almost planning on what pizza to order on the day of results. I could attend some conferences, workshops, networking events, GSA meetings, Turkish GSA meeting, post in GISA (graduate Indian students association) about my campaign. Some student presidents of other department GSA had told me that they like my honesty during the candidate debate, but I should consider coming up with Election Manifesto. I had no serious intention to come up with manifesto. Because, I hardly knew what was happening in GSA. How it work is still a mystery. Other than being a volunteer webmaster for the electrical engineering graduate student association , I had no contact with the GSA body. But there is no time to learn, and I do not know whom to learn from. Because the incumbent Vice President was also running for the post this semester! Anyways I had all the studies and part time work to do. There is hardly some time to squeeze in. Buffalo winter makes you wear jacket. I had the cards for campaign in both my jackets, whichever I chose to wear, in my bag and pockets. I was in the game.
Election lasted 3 days. The election result day arrived. I didn’t check it till the end of the day. The result came afternoon, is what I learned. For results and campaign blog page, campaign links, results click here.
I came second. Just a few votes short of victory. The Incumbent won. Surprisingly, getting the same number of votes she got in previous year election. And then many people contacted me saying “Hard luck” and “so close” and “Better luck next time”. Hopefully, there is no next time , and I would be graduating from my Masters’ program.i would consider it as a victory considering that I had hardly put any effort into real campaign. I had no candidate meet and greet program, I had no election manifesto, I was kind of lousy in replying to some voters in my Facebook campaign event page. I would consider that number of votes as victory for sure. I made a lot of acquaintances in this process. Some who later said that they forgot to vote! Then I realized that I was so busy those days that I too had.. !