Unlike last year’s USGD elections when incumbent President Joseph Grossman ran against freshman Erika Green, this year’s presidential ticket comprised solely freshmen.
University College Sen. Frank Smith III and Barrett, The Honors College Sen. Travis Arbon announced their candidacies March 18. Smith was elected president April 4 with 54.3 percent of votes.
Besides being the first freshman-only campaign the campus had seen, both tickets included two journalism majors. Arbon and Emily Antuna, his vice president of services running mate, are both journalism majors. Smith, an exploratory major, said he will be switching to journalism next semester alongside his VPS Marcus Dudas.
While some journalism students may not want to get involved politically to avoid appearing biased, journalism senior William Scot Grey said that as a freshman, students have more time to get involved with extracurricular activities like student government.
If journalism students want to get involved with student government, “more power to them,” Grey said.
Journalism junior Stephen Hicks said he thought it was a bad idea for journalism students to get involved with student government. Hicks said he watched part of a student government debate earlier in the semester, where candidates were offering comments on immigration and health care.
According to Hicks, the candidates were taking partisan stances on these issues.
“People aren’t going to forget that,” he said.
Hicks said that having your political views known could kill your credibility as a journalist.
“As journalism students, we were told to guard our political views as closely as possible,” Hick said, referring to one of his introductory journalism courses.
Journalism Ethics and Diversity instructor Michael Bluhm said he sees good arguments on both sides.
“Just because they’re journalism majors doesn’t mean they need to perpetuate this illusion of neutrality,” Bluhm said.
Bluhm said the biggest potential issue would be if a journalism major were to cover student government for a publication while being involved with student government.
Arbon said he does not believe his involvement with student government necessarily conflicts with his role as a journalist. While working as a reporter for the Downtown Devil, he turned down stories about USGD, he said. Arbon added that the publication discloses any potential conflicts of interest in editors’ notes at the ends of articles.
Atuna said she thought being involved with student government would give her an edge as a reporter. She hopes to become a political journalist, and student government helps her to understand bureaucracy and the political process more completely, she said.
Dudas said by email that he would not do anything to compromise his journalism career, and added he’s not interested in covering politics. Smith was unavailable for comment.
Journalism sophomore Gilbert Romero said the potential ethical problem isn’t a big deal. He said running for student government is appropriate because it is school-related and part of the educational experience of a student.
Editor’s note: Travis Arbon works as a contributing reporter for the Downtown Devil. He did not contribute to the reporting of this article.