When I first stumbled onto the 40 Acres at the start of 2014, an election was about to occur. After spending three semesters at a smaller university in Boston, the prospect of a real election at a school the size of a moderately large town was intriguing. The major presidential candidates were mirrors of one another. They looked, acted, spoke, campaigned and conducted themselves the same.
Perhaps most frustrating, there was nothing on issues of substance or ideology. There was one pact that was broadly centre-left and another broadly centre-right, but no details. Just vacuous bromides about togetherness and a series of photographs on Facebook of smiles next to U.S. Senators and state legislators.
Our current Student Government President, Kevin Helgren, could not be more different. He is nakedly partisan and political. I love it. Though the articles I penned last year were in support of his opponent, I do believe Helgren is the best president this University has had at least since I first arrived.
Though the norm of his predecessors has been to steer clear of contentious political fights, Helgren embraces politics. He openly campaigned for Hillary Clinton. He openly campaigns against and resists President Donald Trump. These are not normal times, and the abnormal is now not only acceptable, but absolutely imperative.
A number of students of this University — Helgren’s constituents, quite literally — are undocumented. A number of students are from the seven countries targeted by Trump’s controversial executive order (the “Muslim Ban”). Many more have families affected. Helgren, in continuing to fight for what is right, is standing in solidarity with them.
If Trump tomorrow announces a nationwide registry of Muslims, as he advocated for in the campaign, I have no doubt that Helgren would register. Whether or not I can say the same for the eventual candidates who will vie to succeed him will be the lens through which I will judge said candidates.
Between satirist Xavier Rotnofsky’s election as SG president in 2015 and the many indignities that marred the electoral process in 2016, one can be easily persuaded that S.G. is but a joke. It is easy to think that its only function is so that Plan II students who monopolize positions can pad their resumes for the exclusive purpose of getting into law school or a plush consulting gig at Deloitte.
But Helgren shows that there is a seriousness to any position of trust and leadership. And that seriousness is on full display every time he stands up for those who he represents and has sworn to protect.
There are three tickets that have registered to be president and vice president: Alejandra Guzman and Micky Wolf; Isaiah Carter and Sydney O’Connell; and Blake Burley and Robert Guerra. I plan on asking each of them how they will protect students in the era of Trump, how they will use their bully pulpit to fight for what is right.
Two years ago, when I sat on the editorial board, I asked a ticket a hard-hitting question on a real issue: Same-sex benefits. The ticket equivocated. I didn’t follow up as hard I should. 2017 is a very different time, and the stakes are too high. I will demand an answer. I will demand whoever earns my vote will follow in the footsteps of Kevin Helgren.
Horwitz is a first-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz