LU#10 "In the Year 2000"
lipscombunderground.tripod.com
vol. IX, no. 225 April 22, 2003

THIS WEEK
Babbler Issues
Websense Nonsense
SGA Elections
Okay guys, with exams starting next week, this will be the second-to-last issue for the year, so if you've got something to say, say it!  Also, I'm going to forego the Yahoo! Group for the LU because it gave me too many problems.  Instead, I'll go back to the old method of sending it through campus e-mail.  If you would like to subscribe or know someone that would, e-mail me (on campus - howardjk).  This week's LU title is a reference to the Conan O'Brien show, but I'm using it to parallel the 2000 elections.  Why?  Read on, fair viewers!
 

Make sure you guys come out for the run-off election vote, no matter who you are or what you believe -- your SGA future relies on it.  The Academic Committee has done a great job and has spent a LOT of time in deliberation and prayer regarding the election.  If you see Eric Bowman, Weldon Elhert, Terah Turner, Jan Volek, and Matt McCallister, make sure you thank them for their hard work in this effort.  Quick plug while we're at it:

VOTE
SCOTLAND (PAUL HALLIDAY)
&  SETH HARPER

for Senator-at-Large


Hey.

First of all, I like to say to Kendrick, thanks for taking my back. You are a most worthy ally. A man among men. Leave it to a fellow musician to be my lone henchman.

Overall, I don’t have anything interesting to say. I just feel like I should be a regular poster, and if that means wasting everyone’s time then so be it. Why doesn’t someone tell me what they think about the direction that the powers that be have taken the Babbler? Personally, I like that they’re showing their technical prowess with the full color and the brand new real newspaper size, as opposed to the black and white tabloid we’ve had for so long. However, as befits the theme of my posts as of late, the recent content is seriously troubling. Pretty pages don’t make up for BORINGNESS. Grade A BORINGITY. BORINGACITY. I don’t know, you make up your own word. Now, before someone jumps down my throat and says, “Well why don’t you get off your high horse and write for the Babbler?”, I would like to point out that I once DID write for the Babbler. I was the entertainment columnist. And the Babbler and I had a happy relationship. I got to see my name in print, and they got stories for free (I never asked for any pay; except once. Then I filled out the forms and never got paid. Hmm.) Well anyway, it was then, after I had established myself as a writer, that they started assigning me very boring stories (Such as the SGA Bonfire Devo, a story I graciously turned down). They had never assigned me stories before, just told me to write something interesting. Anyway, I took a couple of assignments (like an Undercurrent show and the typical movie reviews), then wrote a couple other stories on my own. But they stopped publishing my articles. They decided to put my stuff on backlog, in favor of stories about stuff like some professor rescuing dogs at the Humane Society or the “Jesus box” or something. I’m sorry, but no one really cares. It’s not like the stuff I was writing was serious or important, but people would come up to me and say they enjoyed it. I’m not complaining about what happened to me specifically, so don’t take it that way. I’m just saying that the Babbler shouldn’t try to be so “real.” I understand that journalism majors have to write articles and stuff, but do we really have to put them in the Babbler? Because it’s depressing to pick it up and just see a bunch of what’s commonly considered “real news.” Can’t it be more fun? Shouldn’t we remember that we’re still college students here? And even if we must have the boring subject matter, couldn’t journalism classes get the students to write with STYLE? It’s so darn dry. I know you journalism students have much more potential and talent than what you let on. Kudos to Briley for the Weird News and Creekmore for Maintaining. You guys get it. Originality rules. Maybe this post won’t provoke any assassination attempts (You don’t fool me, Todd. I saw the gunman perched on top of Sewell.)

P.S. The Babbler could put in for a better copy editor as well. So many errors, so little…yeah whatever.

Until we save the Lipscomb Rainforest, I am

Seth Harper  

(I'm in your boat -- I took several photos for the Babbler and only got paid for 1.  --Jeremy)


Who talks like that? Besides, Iguanas got lots of guts! We even like chitlins.

Until all "social clubs" are Kappa Sigma, I am...

The Great White Iguana

(The subject of this was "gutless pseudonyms", so take your pick.  --Jeremy)

Reply


Hi everyone, I’m Benji Jones. I ran for Vice President of the SGA and lost. I am writing this Wednesday night so the run-off voting for President and Vice Pres. has not taken place and no winners have been announced. I personally hope Chris Howell and Chris Collins (the only other VP candidate with ideas) win.

A few hours after it was announced that I was out of the VP race, I ran into Brannon Cole. He was still on the campaign trail.

“Your people are loyal to you, Benji,” he said. I didn’t understand him so he went on, “They vote like you do. Everyone I’ve talked to who said they voted for you is voting for Chris Howell because you did.” I regretfully informed him I was unwilling to change my support and I wished him luck.

You guys have no idea how much what he said about you guys meant to me. A deep, warm smile fills my face as tears well up in my eyes. I cannot thank you enough. You are true friends and (in my mind) Lipscomb’s Patriots.

Someone else told me that the Vice Presidential race was like a national election with candidates from three political parties: Lincoln as the Republican, Collins as the Democrat, and myself as the Reform candidate (e.g. 1-Things suck 2-Things don’t have to suck 3-Let’s fix the things that suck). He said “Everyone wants to vote for the Reform candidate, but they’ve always voted Republican or Democrat before, so they don’t know how.”

I tried hard to spread the word that I seriously wanted to make changes to chapel that I thought would help it to become a more spiritual experience, but either people didn’t care (which the LU discussions make hard to believe), they didn’t believe me (which is unfortunate), or they were afraid. People believe strongly in individual freedom, but when they see a free individual they don’t know what to expect and (because of an unwillingness to leave their comfort zones) they react negatively.

I wrote my chapel speech in the forty minutes previous to when I gave it. A few nights before I had written a speech that would have made Brannon Cole’s laugh-fest look so ridiculous that he would have been ashamed to have given it. While rehearsing my comedy routine, it occurred to me that the only reason I was running for office was personal vanity. I was appalled with my actions as I came to the realization that the people who think I’m cool will always think I’m cool and the people who would think I was cool only because I was Vice President weren’t the people I wanted to think I was cool.

So I prayed about it.

After talking with God I felt my campaign was worth running if I could do something spiritual. Naturally, chapel was the first thing that came to mind. I thought if more guys are involved, not only would it challenge them to become more spiritually minded, but it would also expand our songbook drastically, thus killing two birds with one stone. Next, my mind was drawn to the root of all evil: money. In the SGA meetings I attended I felt the deans, particularly McDowell, were trying to manipulate and intimidate the Senate to get to SGA funds. Since money is the root of all evil, I distrusted the deans and reasoned that anyone so anxious for money and influence could not be trusted. I felt I had no choice except to call them out on it in front of everyone.

So when I got in front of the student body I had one thing in my mind. I wanted to only speak the truth. So I mentioned my campus experiences, brought up drinking, ragged on sterile chapel services, and called out money-hungry administration. If I lied, I know it not.

Some people can’t take a joke and others just can’t handle the truth. A girl said this to me. “You had my vote until you said the thing about beer.”
“Are you saying I was wrong?” I asked.
“No, I just can’t vote for you now,” she said.
“Why?”
“I just can’t vote for someone who would say that in chapel,” she concluded and I let it go.

Apparently my willingness to fight the powers that be made me public enemy #1 for the deans. The deans have a weekly meeting with SGA officers and a little bird told me that “What should we do to Benji Jones?” was a subject that spawned many harsh words and gnashing of teeth Tuesday afternoon.

I’m not giving up yet. I’m running for Senator-at-Large, because I think that Chris and Chris (who I really hope win) are going to need help in their stand against the deans, and also because I want to see the chapel changes through to the end of the line. Thanks for reading this long post.

Until officer candidates have a chapel debate and are allowed to stand on their issues and their brains instead of their popularity and their “love for Lipscomb,”

I am Benji “not afraid of McDowell” Jones

 (We'll have to see how things come out on this one.  --Jeremy)

Reply


McDowell you sucker, I knew you wouldn't let Benji win, but I didn't think you would punish Chris Howell just for being his friend. I am ashamed to have thought you were a nice guy. Benji was wrong not all the deans are corrupt, JUST YOU! I can't believe you let Brannon Cole get away with that Bison news network crap! If you weren't afraid of what Howell and Benji would do to you, you would have allowed the other three presidential candidates a chance to say something in chapel that day. That free extra face time Cole got was bogus.

I heard people say Cole had the deans wrapped around his little finger, but I know that it's the other way around. Cole and Collins are gonna be your puppets because you gave them something good for their resume. You helped your Quest buddies get into office and now they are not only gonna bend over backward for you, you're gonna sodomize the SGA. When you give it to them in the backdoor your really having your way with us AND I'M ON TO YOU MCDOWELL.

Howell and Jones were gonna change things for the better and now nothing is gonna happen. There are still too many good people in SGA for the system to collapse, but nothing big will happen because Collins and Cole will try to knock it down in favor of what the deans want to spend the money on. I'm fed up with this crap and everybody else is too. Your going down McDowell. Your going down hard!

Sweet dreams you oversized trick.

The Avenger

(This post was edited from its original only slightly; certain vulgarities were a little too extreme, even if it is a free-speech forum.  I decided it was in the writer's best interest (which, by the way, was an anonymous e-mail account) and student body's best interest to not slander/libel the Dean of Campus Life too much.  --Jeremy)

Reply


Apparently Lipscomb is using a new web censoring program called Bess or N2H2. I guess I could care less, because they had Websense before this, but what bothers me is that they are blocking Salon.com. This was daily reading for me, but the one section dedicated to tasteful, non-obscene article about love and sex apparently offended them. But what about the other 90% of the site that features independent news and liberal editorials? Lipscomb probably doesn't want me to read those either, but really, didn't the whole thing go a little too far when they started censoring "Tasteless" sites. One day after www.schoolsucks.com was posted on the LU, it was blocked as "Tasteless." Next thing I know, ETS will be blocking The Man Show and South Park.

Until Lipscomb lets its 1st graders read Arianna Huffington again, I am

Ben Bargagliotti

(I don't know about Comedy Central, but the Oxygen Network has much steamier content than Comedy Central, MTV, and E! combined.  However, I've run into the same problems.  I got the story from the computer center -- our contract with Websense is about to expire, and Lipscomb is exploring lower-cost alternatives that are actually supposed to do a better job (thanks, Dave).  In my own research, I've found N2H2 to be more paranoid than Websense ever was.  I've had friends' weblogs blocked as "Sex" and even a website that has coupons for tech products blocked as "Nudity".  I guess all those hardcore images of keyboards and mice were offending someone.  Now, there are ways around it, but I won't reveal them on this site.  --Jeremy)

Reply


Hey Jeremy, I want to comment about Daniel's email, which I got in advance, that he sent in as a timeline for the campaign week last week. I'm going to let the rest of his email speak for itself, but I need to comment on last week's dean's meeting because when I had talked about it with Daniel last week I was, largely due to the meeting, about to quit my run for SGA president. Today (Monday), I had a second meeting that included Dean McDowell, Sarah Keith, and Benji. Looking back on last week's dean's meeting, I sincerely believed the essence of what was put down in Daniel's email, and I don't know how to interpret what was said there any other way than how I originally interpreted it, but they convinced me today that their intention was not to rig at any point Benji's election. Say what you will about the rest of the election, but I don't think the dean's intentions were unethical, although to me on Tuesday it really sounded that way. I just needed to clear that up as these emails get sent out.

I want to thank you guys for your support over these past three years. Together we've accomplished a lot and I'm sorry that it has come to an end.

Best Wishes,

Chris Howell

(Nicely put, Chris.  --Jeremy)


(What follows is the e-mail correspondence between Dean McDowell and Daniel Everson over the SGA Elections.  These are the official e-mails, which are paraphrased in the following LU article.  Note:  These e-mails are being re-printed with direct permission from Dean McDowell.  --Jeremy)

-----Original Message-----

From: Everson, Daniel (Std Univ - eversondw)
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2003 11:47 AM
To: McDowell, Scott (Staff - mcdowellsa)
Subject: RE: Election concerns

Dean McDowell,

I probably would come by and personally talk to you about it if I were on campus during the day, but since I am at the capitol all day it's really not possible. I want you to know that I do understand where you're coming from. Although I heartily disagree, I do understand your points.

Benji did make a strong showing in the final tally, receiving roughly 1/3 of the vote. That means that roughly 1/3 of the students who voted got behind his message, which was to encourage chapel reform and a stronger SGA. I'd say a third of the campus counts as "the average student." That's a moot point open to debate, because it depends on how you define "average." You might be right that the average student doesn't come out and say they feel like they're treated as children... all I have to say is that as a student, who has talked to other students about their feelings on these matters, I have found a pattern. There are, of course, varying degrees of concern on this matter, from a sense of mild annoyance to anger. But the fact is, whether it's latent or on the surface, the average student feels improvements need to be made in student/administration relations, and that such improvements would consist of a more healthy respect between the students (as represented by the SGA) and the administration. That increased respect would be a two-way street. While I think that initially (during the first few officer meetings with the deans) a guerilla campaign such as Benji's might have discouraged such a respectful cooperation, in the long run it would have paid dividends for all involved. Why? After the initial period of confrontation, everyone would learn that no one was going to back down on the issues, and that mutual respect and compromise would be necessary. It would take a strong backbone such as Benji has to make that initial confrontation a reality, though. I can easily see a Lincoln Rogers, say, being intimidated by the big bad deans, and therefore backing down without a fight to avert conflict. While perhaps not every student on campus feels that the administration has pushed the SGA around and made them an irrelevant force, 1/3 of the student body took their voices to the ballots and said that they did. Benji's mission was to rescue the SGA from mediocrity, and make it truly representative of student concerns. He made a VERY STRONG showing for someone who was only running a campaign appealing to the unwashed unaffiliated masses, and that's something everyone would do well to take note of. Especially because those are the people who vote in much smaller percentages. For every one that votes in that constituency there is at least one (and probably more in the realm of two) that doesn't. The margin between him and front-runner Lincoln Rogers was only 5% of the vote. Just about every social clubber will turn out to vote; that's why Lincoln and Collins are in the run-offs. But if all the people who saw Benji as the most viable VP candidate to stand up for the common student had voted, there might not have even been a run-off. Under those circumstances, I believe Benji would have thrashed them both on the first day. Because, like I said, non-clubbers don't vote in the same numbers that clubbers do, and I am pretty sure Lincoln and Collins, between the two of them, monopolized the club vote. That's not bad, it's just the way it is. But I stand by my statement; Benji represented the non-clubber, average student and did amazingly well without having ties to SID or Tau Phi.

That's it for my punditry. But I think that the main issue here is something else you brought up, which is that "crude and sarcastic remarks in chapel are not the right way to voice dissent." The first point I would make here is that sarcasm is not a bad thing. By saying something in such a way that you make the statement you just made look stupid, all you're doing is pointing out the obvious. Take the obvious example, the statement "we all know nobody at Lipscomb drinks." Well, if nobody at Lipscomb drinks, why did someone write "I like beer" in one of the bathroom stalls in the computer center under the library? Why have I smelled spilt alcohol on more than one occassion on the elevators of high rise? I think we all know that there is a closet drinking problem at Lipscomb, and if anyone denies that they're blind. Lipscomb looks just like the rest of the world in about every way possible, except for it's shiny exterior, which is polished to hide the fact that the same people singing to God in chapel will be drinking alcohol the same night, and not in moderation. Sarcasm is not bad; it makes people think. I'm sure F. LaGard Smith and I agree on that point, at least.

Dr. Conger, in his rambling speech last year, did in a much less tactful way exactly what Benji did through the use of sarcasm; pointed out that there is a drinking problem at Lipscomb. Alcohol was a big topic in UB last year, as well. There is plenty of precedent for referencing Lipscomb's alcohol problem in chapel. Benji only touched on the same subject that has been touched on many times before in chapel. You might be upset that he didn't do it in such a way as to downplay the problem. Well, he didn't downplay it because we all know it's there, and there's no sense in downplaying it. The answer to Lipscomb's alcohol problem is not to hide it under a table and pretend like it doesn't exist; it is to deal with the facts, head-on. It is an issue, whether you are prepared to admit it or not. Maybe as SGA VP no one (including Benji) can get rid of the problem, but raising awareness is the first step to solving any problem. In sarcastically referencing the problem, Benji only did in chapel what the students themselves do on a daily basis, outside of chapel. And there's nothing inappropriate about that. If anyone was offended, it was because they have a double-standard. It is my view that the things people talk about outside of chapel should be the same issues we're talking about and addressing inside of chapel. And if there's a ban on that, it should be lifted immediately. Don't shoot the messenger (Benji) just because you don't like the message (a lot of people at Lipscomb drink). He merely stated a fact. And if 2% of the campus somehow didn't know that people at Lipscomb drink before Benji's speech, they know it now. And that's not a bad thing.

In reference to crude remarks, I can't think of any except the fact that he said "chapel sucks." Now, I remember a time when that was considered crude. I don't know where the term "sucks" originated. For all I know, originally it meant oral sex. If that's what it meant at one point, it doesn't mean that anymore. I don't think anyone of my age group knows exactly what "sucks" means. It's a word that exists for its own sake, and the only thing it means is that something is displeasant. Anymore, "sucks" is a part of just about everyone's vocabulary. I've heard it used in chapel before by professors, and professors and students use it in class all the time. Once again, there is a precedent for using that word in chapel; Benji only did what others have done before without incident. I'm pretty sure Goldman has said it in chapel, I could probably go get the ETS tapes and verify that. I think Lee Camp has said it in chapel too; I know he says a lot worse outside of chapel, in his classes (assuming sucks was actually offensive, which I think most people would debate). At any rate, that's neither here nor there. At this point in the game, for anyone to get bent out of shape about the word "sucks" is ridiculous, because everyone uses it and doesn't think anything of it. Benji was trying to speak in a language, a vernacular if you will, that the students could identify with. He was trying to speak their language. He had two minutes, and was trying to use as few words as possible to sum up the message. So he said "chapel sucks" and it immediately connected. Later, he created a flier that expounded on what that actually meant; chapel needs more songleaders so we'll have variety in the song selection (how about 20 different guys, instead of the same perfect 4 or 5 over and over again? We have the talent on our campus). There should be more student speakers telling how God has worked in their lives and sharing uplifting stories to encourage the other students instead of business moguls talking about how their own hard work has helped them get to the top (oh yeah, and God was in there somewhere too). As it is, Benji feels (as do I) that all too often chapel is merely going through the motions just to say we have chapel. He was advocating putting some life into chapel. There's nothing crude about that.

The basic point is this; give someone two minutes to give a speech, and they're going to have to rely on soundbytes to sell themselves. When you only have two minutes to talk to the student body, a vision of what chapel could be like, as opposed to what it is, has to be summed up in two words just about everyone can identify with: "chapel sucks." And if someone has a problem with the word sucks, they obviously haven't had many conversations lately with the 30-and-under crowd, because it's not something that people of my age group find offensive.

The final point I want to make is about the money-grubbing deans part. Once again, he was trying to connect with student emotion, and mobilize those voters who felt marginalized by the system. He was trying to tell them "you have a viable candidate who represents the way you feel and will stand up for you, so go and vote." A lot of students have a problem with the deans going to the SGA and, say, practically forcing them into a corner on an issue such as a laser tag arena. The SGA felt that they were pretty much forced to do it in that case, despite the fact that they felt there would have been better uses of the money. And Benji was upset that the Deans will promise SGA money to, say, the professors' senate before they even ask the SGA for it. These are serious issues; it was not an attempt to be crude or sarcastic, but to show that he would take a stand against that kind of disrespect toward the SGA as vice-president.

You said there's a right way and a wrong way to show dissent. Well, what better way is there to buck the system than to stand before the entire student body and point out the things that need to change? Is Benji Jones supposed to just keep his concerns "underground?" I'm sure the administration would like to see these kinds of discussions relegated to the dusty halls of the Underground where they will never see the light, and where nobody will actually do anything to change the way things are. That's not dissent; that's cowardice. I think the Underground serves a purpose, but it also facilitates people bowing out instead of actually trying to make a difference. Sometimes there needs to be student action to change things instead of endless complaining that gets nobody anywhere. Once more, I have to disagree with you. Voicing dissent is comfortable for the administration when those voices are viewed as the fringe insurgents; they start to make you wonder, though, when they're a full third of the student body vote. All Benji did was mobilized those voices, and I guarantee you that there were a lot more who were just so disenchanted that they didn't bother to vote. I'm sorry if you feel the way he got across his message across was questionable. But I have talked to several students who had heard about the Deans meeting where Benji's campaign was the topic of discussion. The point of those students was, "why be mad at Benji, he was just saying what us students have been saying all along. He's speaking for us." They think, along with me, that there was nothing inappropriate about what Benji said, even if it did make a few people squirm.

That's my take on the issue. I know Benji well enough to know that he's a good button-pusher. That's what campaign speeches are supposed to be about: pushing the right buttons to get voters to respond to a solid agenda. A sterile speech that offends nobody is barely worth making. Like Jesus said, either be hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Jesus used shock and awe to be a polarizing force for social change; that's why he was crucified. Benji took a shock and awe approach similar to the one Jesus used. We need our SGA members to be polarizing forces not afraid to upset a few people and rock a few boats. Eyes are only opened when the boat is rocked. When Benji made a chapel speech that was as much social commentary as anything else, I don't see how anyone could do anything but commend him on standing up for his firmly-held beliefs. What is appropriate in chapel is entirely in the eyes of the beholder, I guess... I personally never thought I would see the opera in chapel, but I was wrong. Benji's speech, which highlighted things that needed to change, was certainly no more out of place in chapel than the opera was.

I appreciate your point of view on these matters; once again, I have to respectfully disagree with the position you're taking on them, because that position simply doesn't make much sense to me. But thanks again, as always, for being open to dialog.

Daniel


-----Original Message-----
From: McDowell, Scott (Staff - mcdowellsa)
To: Everson, Daniel (Std Univ - eversondw)
Sent: 4/17/2003 8:38 AM
Subject: RE: Election concerns

Daniel,

I'm glad you feel good about this and I'd love to have you drop by and talk to me about the whole thing. One statement in your initial e-mail struck me as particularly off the mark. When you speak of "the friction which exists between the average student (who feels that the administration treats them like children and bullies them) and the administration (who views every student daring to voice a less popular opinion as a threat)" I just have to disagree.

I won't argue that there is often friction on this (and every) campus between students and administration but I don't really believe the "average" student feels as if they are treated like children and bullied by the administration. Some, no doubt, feel that way, but I don't think it is the norm. Also, I know for a fact that the administration does not view dissent as a threat.

Personally what disturbed me about the situation at hand was the INNAPPROPRIATE WAY the dissent was voiced. In my opinion, crude and sarcastic remarks in chapel are not the right way to voice dissent. Believing the method of delivery of a message is offensive and being threatened by the message are two very different things. I value dissent and I know the administration does too. There is simply a right way and a wrong way to go about voicing it.

Come by and see me if you'd like to talk more.

Blessings,

Scott McDowell


-----Original Message-----
From: Everson, Daniel (Std Univ - eversondw)
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 10:55 PM
To: Gamble, SarahKeith (Staff - gamblesk)
Cc: Dalton, Jennifer (Std Univ - daltonjs); McDowell, Scott (Staff -
mcdowellsa)
Subject: RE: Election concerns

Thanks for ensuring a fair election. Like I hope I made perfectly clear, I did not believe the election would have been rigged even without an independent observer of the vote-counting process. But with a margin so close (each VP candidate receiving roughly a third of the vote, within 2 or 3 percentage points of each other) I am absolutely sure that the rumors would have really gotten out of hand had there not been someone neutral there counting the votes to counteract their effect. I was right that Benji was every bit as viable a candidate as the other two; the race was so tight it could have gone either way. You made a good-faith effort to deal with student concerns, no matter how unfounded they were, and I am really glad that you did so. My only regret in the matter (and I'm biased here, of course) is that Benji Jones missed the mark by such a slim margin. He really turned out the vote of a segment of population who otherwise might not have voted at all. It will be interesting to see who gets his block of votes now, Lincoln Rogers or Chris Collins. Or maybe, those people won't vote again at all. That's what my money is on.

Thanks again,

Daniel


-----Original Message-----

From: Gamble, SarahKeith (Staff - gamblesk)
To: Everson, Daniel (Std Univ - eversondw)
Cc: Dalton, Jennifer (Std Univ - daltonjs); McDowell, Scott (Staff - mcdowellsa); Gamble, SarahKeith (Staff - gamblesk)
Sent: 16.4.2003 14:41
Subject: RE: Election concerns

Daniel,

Thank you for your email. Dean McDowell asked that I respond to your message. Let me assure you that the election will not be rigged and the election will be "fair and balanced" for all of the students running. First, I'll give you some history ...

for years, the SGA president (elected by fellow students to the highest office on campus) functioned as the election commissioner. Several years ago the SGA, at the direction of the SGA president, wrote the SGA Election Guidelines. Although that document is not technically a part of the SGA Constitution, it was voted on and passed by the SGA. Also, we have had SGA presidents who were not running for election the following year (Jenny Dalton is not on the today's ballot) serve as election commissioner when the chair of the academic committee was listed on the ballot. (We have not, as far as I know, ever had someone who was not a current SGA member serve as election commissioner.) I would also suggest that while the SGA president "has the power to appoint an election commissioner," she/he is not obligated to do so ... Jenny has other "powers" to take action when she is not obligated to do so. I believe that the wording in the SGA documents that obligates the president to act is the president "shall" or "will" rather than "has the power to." As the academic committee chair and other members are running for re-election to the SGA, it is not opposed to procedure for Jenny Dalton to serve as the election commissioner. Finally, SGA presidents who are not running for election have always been present when the votes were tallied and have certified the election results. Normally, Dean McDowell or I have also been present.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in touch with me. I assure you that neither Jenny nor anyone in our office would even consider rigging an election. As you know, that is the whole point of having elections ... so you students can elect officers to represent you. Because the issue has been raised today, Jenny asked Dr. Terry Briley, who is the dean of the college of Bible and Ministry to be involved in calculating the results of today's election. Dr. Briley has the computerized tapes from the voting machines used in the arena this morning and will be in the meeting today when the final results are tallied and posted. I hope that taking this action will alleviate any rumors.

Thanks,

Dean Gamble
 

-----Original Message-----
From: McDowell, Scott (Staff - mcdowellsa)
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 11:27 AM
To: Gamble, SarahKeith (Staff - gamblesk)
Subject: FW: Election concerns
Importance: High
 

-----Original Message-----

From: Everson, Daniel (Std Univ - eversondw)
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 1:04 AM
To: McDowell, Scott (Staff - mcdowellsa)
Cc: Dalton, Jennifer (Std Univ - daltonjs)
Subject: Election concerns
Importance: High

Dear Dean McDowell,

It is no small secret around campus that Vice-Presidential Candidate Benji Jones has pushed some buttons around campus, and has made some people mad at him. While I believe that he is pushing for positive change and is in touch with widespread student opinion, I can understand why some in the administration and the SGA might be upset with him for rocking the boat. Frankly, I am apprehensive about the prospect of having the SGA Vice-Presidential votes counted without an independent, outside student leader overseeing the vote-counting proceedings. I do not believe that the president of the SGA is authorized to be election commissioner according to SGA statute. I quote from present SGA election law below, word for word.

"David Lipscomb University Student Government Association Election Codes and Procedures

Section 1: The election commissioner

The SGA President shall have the power to appoint the Academic Committee Chairman or another member of the Academic Committee to the position of Election Commissioner."

After spelling out the duties of said commissioner, the statute states that the election commissioner cannot be eligible for re-election. While I understand that all of the members of the academic committee including chairman Matt McCallister are up for re-election, according to the body of law this still does not authorize the president of the SGA to oversee the proceedings him or herself; in a case like this, clearly, there is a lot of grey area.

Therefore, I don't think it would be too much to ask to invite an independent observer to oversee the tallying of the votes. Even though it is not specifically authorized in statute to do so, neither is it authorized in statute for the SGA president to perform the duties of election commissioner. I would personally advocate Pat Ford, as he is a former Senator who is familiar with the proceedings and would be an independent voice without bias for or against Benji Jones. Should he choose to decline, I would ask that you use your best judgment to find such a respected, qualified student leader to oversee the counting of the Vice-Presidential votes. I am asking this as a student, as a concerned citizen of the Lipscomb community, who would like to see this election be fair to all involved. Again, I am not insinuating that otherwise it would necessarily be unfair, only that we need to ensure that it is fair, absolutely and completely above reproach.

I would like to see this election be completely above any kind of suspicion, because I have heard rumors from some segments of the campus that they wouldn't put it past the administration to rig this election against Benji. Such rumors are destructive, and lead to nothing but harsh feelings. Such rumors fuel the friction which exists between the average student (who feels that the administration treats them like children and bullies them) and the administration (who views every student daring to voice a less popular opinion as a threat). Therefore, it is important to counteract these kinds of rumors before they have a chance to get out of hand. I myself do not think this kind of thing (rigging of an election for or against any candidate) would happen either because of the Deans or the SGA president, because I trust the integrity of all involved. I personally like Jenny Dalton and Dean McDowell as people, and feel they are above reproach. I want to be very clear about this. However, this is a rumor I have heard from a couple of different sources (incidentally, none connected to the actual Benji Jones campaign, but from concerned friends and supporters of Benji). My respect for all involved is one reason that I wanted to warn you about the talk that is starting to develop, because I think you deserve to know what is being said. By appointing an independent, respected vote counter who is trusted by all, everyone's back would be covered. That would head such negative talk off at the pass, and would put everyone concerned above suspicion. This would just be a good-faith effort to show that you are in touch with student concerns. I have no authority to make anyone follow the election guidelines, and I am in no position to make sure that this election is above reproach; that's up to you. I am merely offering up a suggestion. You could either take the suggestion as a good idea and follow it, or ignore it. However, I think that by neglecting to make an effort in this area you are only setting the campus up for more vicious gossip and rampant, unfounded rumors.

In such a time of polarizing feelings, I hate to have to write a letter such as this. I am well aware that you do not think Benji has a chance of winning; however, I feel that his chances are much better than you give him credit for, because he has touched on student sentiments and tapped into a well that runs very deep. I support his campaign and feel that he would do a good job, if given a chance. You may disagree; and if you do, you do not know the brilliant, principled, Christian Benji Jones that I know. He is over-the-top, but he is for what is right, and he is for the students. I know that it would be a challenge for the deans to work with such a force; I believe that ultimately it would be a rewarding challenge. I think that Benji could help you get more in touch with the common, non-social club, non-career-SGA student. That is who Benji represents; that is who he is. And if he wins this election fairly, as I fully expect him to, I trust that you will come to respect him for his stances.

Thanks for your time,

Daniel Everson

(Thus ends the official e-mail correspondence... read below for the timeline. --Jeremy)


2003 Lipscomb University SGA Election Timeline:

Sunday: The campaigns begin. Signs and banners start to go up. Vice-presidential candidates Chris Collins and Lincoln Rogers both immediately violate the campaign guidelines; nothing is done. This is despite the fact that the guidelines state "NOTICE: Failure to follow these guidelines may result in disciplinary action by the Dean of Students, a monetary fine, and/or removal from the ballot."*

(* The campaign guidelines specifically state:

"3.(b) No signs should be posted on the outside of buildings except one (1) banner per candidate, which may be strung between columns of buildings or trees. (There is no limitation on the size of the banner.)" Lincoln Rogers violated this guideline by posting a large poster board sign on the outside of Sewell Hall's side door closest to the student center.

"3.(k) Candidates are not allowed to paint advertisements on any school property (except the Bison) or to use sidewalk chalk. No sign is to be placed on the sidewalks, on trees, on the kiosk, staked in to the ground, or affixed to any other sign on campus." Chris Collins violated this guideline by spray painting his name in bright green spray-paint on ply board outside of High Rise. This ply board was "Lipscomb property" as it was put up by campus maintenance to keep people from falling into an open manhole. Also, the fact that it is outdoor advertisement in addition to the banner means that Collins was in violation of 3.(b), as was Rogers.)

Monday: The Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates give speeches in chapel. Among those giving speeches is the charismatic Brannan Cole, who runs on the platform of not having a platform. He has no SGA experience, but is president of the inter-club council. Also speaking is Chris Howell, a serious-minded young man with a solid SGA track record, and experience as SGA vice-president and chairman of the student life committee. He is not in a social club. All he has going for him is his track record. Among the vice-presidential candidates is a certain Benji Jones. Confident and charismatic, he is immediately a polarizing force. He immediately either alienates or gains the support of everyone in the audience with his crowd-participatory speech and his assertion that "chapel sucks." He goes on to insinuate that, yes, people at Lipscomb actually drink, and that yes, the deans have abused the SGA in the past. He boldly states that he will not stand for it as vice president. It just so happens that Benji Jones and Chris Howell are close personal friends who have decided to campaign together, although their platforms are not connected. Chris originally has slight misgivings about this, as he knows that some of Benji's platform is likely to be polarizing. However, mutual friends of Benji and Chris convince them both that campaigning together is the right thing to do. So on Monday, a couple guys walk around outside of chapel with sandwich boards promoting both campaigns. One is dressed in a bunny suit.

Monday night: Benji Jones has a chance meeting with McDowell at dinnertime. They laugh and joke about Benji's speech, with McDowell asking who the money-grubbing dean was, him or Sarah Keith Gamble. Benji replies something to the effect of "no one in particular" or "it could be anybody" and McDowell jokes "We're all money-grubbing." McDowell seems only slightly distraught that Benji said chapel sucks, but doesn't come across as very bent out of shape about any of it.

Tuesday: The deans have a meeting with SGA President Jenny Dalton, Vice-President Chris Howell, and Secretary Diana Orces. They are now livid with Benji Jones, and are openly talking about how to prevent him from taking office. They ask Jenny Dalton what they think his chances are; she says he has no chance of winning. In the event that Benji wins the election, they mention that stripping him of his student-elected office is a real possibility; they imply that either that will occur or that they will take some other kind of alternate disciplinary action. They apparently have received some anonymous faculty complaints about Benji's chapel speech, and have decided to claim Benji violated the Lipscomb code of conduct in the event of his election, as a justification for taking away the office of vice-president, if they choose to pursue that action.

Chris Howell, in the meeting, states that he thinks Benji has a chance. Dean McDowell is first incredulous about this, then becomes angry at Chris. He accuses Chris of being "shady" for campaigning with Benji Jones, and for taking up for Benji as he is being viciously attacked in the meeting. Chris leaves the meeting all shaken up, having been personally attacked by McDowell for standing up for his friend. Diana also leaves with similar impressions to Chris' (she feels the meeting was unethical, the deans were overly harsh, and that everything has been blown way out of proportion by McDowell).

Tuesday afternoon: Chris Howell tells Benji what has gone down in the deans' meeting. Benji, meanwhile, is running a populist campaign, meeting as many people as possible and expounding on the meaning of the sound bytes of his chapel speech.

Tuesday evening: Chris Howell talks to several close friends, telling them about the deans meeting. He strongly considers dropping out of the race, as he feels the deans meeting was one of the most unethical meetings he has ever been privy to. His friends talk him out of it, and after Chris leaves, Chris' friends become concerned that the deans might rig the vice-presidential election against Benji, given their strong opposition to Benji Jones taking the vice-presidency. Daniel Everson is also informed of the goings-on, and although he does not think that the deans would necessarily rig the vote, he knows that if there is not someone independent overseeing the election that the rumor would spread like wildfire. He is deeply disturbed about the way the deans have treated Chris, and with how they're trying to treat Benji. So he decides to make sure that the election is fair, for all concerned. He sends out an email to McDowell and Dalton, asking for an independent vote-counter to oversee the proceedings, to preclude any foul play with the ballot-counting. He asks others to do the same, to show student concern about the fairness of the election. He also cites statutes in the SGA bylaws which clearly state that a member of the academic committee is to be the election commissioner. This is not the case, as President Jenny Dalton is serving as commissioner.**

(**"David Lipscomb University Student Government Association Election Codes and Procedures
Section 1: The election commissioner
The SGA President shall have the power to appoint the Academic Committee Chairman or another member of the Academic Committee to the position of Election Commissioner.")

Tuesday night: In a fresh burst of energy, and seeing that the deans and perhaps a few others (in particular faculty members) had taken his speech in the wrong way and taken offense where none was intended, Benji prints up a bunch of fliers telling the details of his platform. He says in the flier that as vice president he would push to improve chapel by getting more students to lead singing, and by recruiting more student speakers to share their testimony with their peers. He also reiterates that he will fight the deans if they try to milk the SGA for money, although he has no personal issues with any of them. He stays up until the wee hours of the morning delivering the fliers.

Wednesday morning: During chapel, a special segment of the Bison News network gives Brannan Cole a full minute to talk about his campaign. It is stated that the opportunity to appear on Bison news network was extended to all of the candidates. This is false. Brannan is good friends with Tiffany Brown, anchor of the program, and has gotten himself an exclusive invitation to appear on the program and plug his campaign. Doctor Proctor gives the ok to this, for some reason. Hardly ethical, especially given the misrepresentation of the situation, the other candidates are upset by this. After chapel, voting immediately begins. Brannan is standing right outside the poll booths, urging people to vote for him. All of this last-minute exposure Brannan has gotten pays off. He will win 41% of the vote, with Howell receiving 40%. Presidential candidate Rachel Bradley will receive about 16% of the vote, and Brad Knapp will receive about 3%. A presidential run-off is set. The vice-presidential vote is no less interesting, as Benji respectfully stands outside the polling place, shaking hands and asking for votes. Lincoln Rogers and Chris Collins, however, are literally standing right outside the voting booths campaigning, like Brannon Cole.

Wednesday afternoon: The votes are tallied, with independent observer Terry Briley overseeing the proceedings. As before mentioned, Brannon and Howell are running head-to-head. The vice-presidential race is the closest, however. Lincoln Rogers receives 36% of the vote. Chris Collins receives 33% of the vote. Benji Jones receives 31%. Benji Jones, the only vice-presidential candidate who has not violated any of the campaign guidelines, is eliminated from the run-off election by a 2% margin of votes. With 800 people voting, 25-30 people could have swung the election Benji's way. A solid case could, in fact, be made that the illegal outdoor advertising of his opponents had cost Benji Jones the election. Needless to say, Benji Jones does not walk away from the election a happy camper.

Wednesday evening: Chris Howell, for the second time, considers dropping out of the presidential race. He feels that he is dealing with unethical people left and right, and is disheartened that the SGA elections had degenerated into such a social-clubber-anointed popularity contest. Daniel Everson talks Chris into sticking in the race, by saying Chris owes it to the 40% of the campus who had put their trust in him the first day. Chris sticks in the race, and appears on the Patrick Chappell radio show to informally debate Brannon Cole. He comes off as intellectual, whereas Brannon comes across as ill-informed and unprepared for the SGA presidency. Of course, as is always the case with Lipscomb radio shows, there were not really any people listening. Chris also announces on the air that he has received the endorsement of both Brad Knapp and Rachel Bradley. This takes Cole by surprise. Chris Collins and Benji Jones also appear on the show. Lincoln fails to show. Chris picks up elements of Benji's platform, and receives Benji's official endorsement. From that point on, Benji becomes an asset to the Collins campaign.

Thursday: Voter turn-out for the run-off is extremely low. Social clubbers turn out in huge numbers; although they are only about 15% of the campus, 75% of the voters are in social clubbers. Although it is not known to what degree Brannon Cole wins the election, he defeats Chris Howell. Chris Collins wins the vice-presidential election. In a side note, Benji is seen around campus wearing a "Collins for VP" shirt.

Thursday afternoon/evening: sitting SGA members express concern about the future of the SGA with Cole at the helm. Jan Volek in particular believes that according the the SGA bylaws there are plenty of grounds to contest the presidential election, on the basis of Cole's unethical use of the Bison News Network (a non-partisan, school-sponsored program) for his own political gain. Students far and wide are disappointed that once again lapdogs of the deans, Quest-team members, and Social Clubbers monopolize the positions of power in the SGA. In the aftermath, people are incredulous and wonder how such a travesty could have occurred. It's called dirty power politics, folks.

Until a hardworking candidate representative of the makeup of the student body has a chance at winning an important SGA election, I am:

Daniel Everson

(For those interested, here below is a copy of the correspondence I have had going on for the last couple days with the deans over the vice-Presidential election. I have printed my emails in their entirety, while I have summed up the responses from the deans.)

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Dear Dean McDowell,

It is no small secret around campus that Vice-Presidential Candidate Benji Jones has pushed some buttons around campus, and has made some people mad at him. While I believe that he is pushing for positive change and is in touch with widespread student opinion, I can understand why some in the administration and the SGA might be upset with him for rocking the boat. Frankly, I am apprehensive about the prospect of having the SGA Vice-Presidential votes counted without an independent, outside student leader overseeing the vote-counting proceedings. I do not believe that the president of the SGA is authorized to be election commissioner according to SGA statute. I quote from present SGA election law below, word for word.

"David Lipscomb University Student Government Association Election Codes and Procedures

Section 1: The election commissioner
The SGA President shall have the power to appoint the Academic Committee Chairman or another member of the Academic Committee to the position of Election Commissioner."

After spelling out the duties of said commissioner, the statute states that the election commissioner cannot be eligible for re-election. While I understand that all of the members of the academic committee, including chairman Matt McCallister, are up for re-election, according to the body of law this still does not authorize the president of the SGA to oversee the proceedings him or herself; in a case like this, clearly, there is a lot of grey area.

Therefore, I don't think it would be too much to ask to invite an independent observer to oversee the tallying of the votes. Even though it is not specifically authorized in statute to do so, neither is it authorized in statute for the SGA president to perform the duties of election commissioner. I would personally advocate Pat Ford, as he is a former Senator who is familiar with the proceedings and would be an independent voice without bias for or against Benji Jones. Should he choose to decline, I would ask that you use your best judgment to find such a respected, qualified student leader to oversee the counting of the Vice-Presidential votes. I am asking this as a student, as a concerned citizen of the Lipscomb community, who would like to see this election be fair to all involved. Again, I am not insinuating that otherwise it would necessarily be unfair, only that we need to ensure that it is fair, absolutely and completely above reproach.

I would like to see this election be completely above any kind of suspicion, because I have heard rumors from some segments of the campus that they wouldn't put it past the administration to rig this election against Benji. Such rumors are destructive, and lead to nothing but harsh feelings. Such rumors fuel the friction which exists between the average student (who feels that the administration treats them like children and bullies them) and the administration (who views every student daring to voice a less popular opinion as a threat). Therefore, it is important to counteract these kinds of rumors before they have a chance to get out of hand. I myself do not think this kind of thing (rigging of an election for or against any candidate) would happen either because of the Deans or the SGA president, because I trust the integrity of all involved. I personally like Jenny Dalton and Dean McDowell as people, and feel they are above reproach. I want to be very clear about this. However, this is a rumor I have heard from a couple of different sources (incidentally, none connected to the actual Benji Jones campaign, but from concerned friends and supporters of Benji). My respect for all involved is one reason that I wanted to warn you about the talk that is starting to develop, because I think you deserve to know what is being said. By appointing an independent, respected vote counter who is trusted by all, everyone's back would be covered. That would head such negative talk off at the pass, and would put everyone concerned above suspicion. This would just be a good-faith effort to show that you are in touch with student concerns. I have no authority to make anyone follow the election guidelines, and I am in no position to make sure that this election is above reproach; that's up to you. I am merely offering up a suggestion. You could either take the suggestion as a good idea and follow it, or ignore it. However, I think that by neglecting to make an effort in this area you are only setting the campus up for more vicious gossip and rampant, unfounded rumors.

In such a time of polarizing feelings, I hate to have to write a letter such as this. I am well aware that you do not think Benji has a chance of winning; however, I feel that his chances are much better than you give him credit for, because he has touched on student sentiments and tapped into a well that runs very deep. I support his campaign and feel that he would do a good job, if given a chance. You may disagree; and if you do, you do not know the brilliant, principled, Christian Benji Jones that I know. He is over-the-top, but he is for what is right, and he is for the students. I know that it would be a challenge for the deans to work with such a force; I believe that ultimately it would be a rewarding challenge. I think that Benji could help you get more in touch with the common, non-social club, non-career-SGA student. That is who Benji represents; that is who he is. And if he wins this election fairly, as I fully expect him to, I trust that you will come to respect him for his stances.

Thanks for your time,

Daniel Everson

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To protect the confidentiality of private letters between individuals, I will sum up the follow-up letter I received from Sarah Keith Gamble instead of reprinting the actual correspondence received from her.

She wrote me back saying that Dean McDowell had asked her to respond to my message, and she proceeded to assure me that the election would be "fair and balanced" and not rigged. Then, she gave me some "history."

She said that for a long time the SGA president had functioned as the election commissioner. Then a few years back, the SGA wrote the SGA election guidelines, at the urging of the SGA president. The document, which was not part of the SGA Constitution, was voted on and passed by the SGA. She pointed out that we have had SGA presidents not up for re-election serve as election commissioner when the academic committee chair was on the ballot. She said that we have never had a non-SGA member serve as election commissioner. She then "suggested" that although the SGA President "has the power to appoint an election commissioner," he or she is not obligated to do so. She backed this up by saying that Jenny has other powers to take certain actions that she is not necessarily obligated to carry out. She said that if the language of the statute had said that Jenny had to appoint another person as election commissioner, the statute would have read "shall" or "will" instead of "has the power to." She said that since everyone on the Academic Committee was running for re-election, it was fully in the realm of procedure for Jenny to serve as the election commissioner. She proceeded to point out that SGA presidents not running for election have always been present at the tallying of the votes, and have always certified the election results. Dean McDowell and Sarah Keith are normally also present, she said.

She then told me that I was free to come to her with any other questions I might have. She assured me that neither Jenny nor anyone in the Deans office would consider rigging an election. She said that the whole point of having elections was so that we, the students, could elect officers to represent us. But because the issue of fairness in the election was raised, she said that Jenny asked Terry Briley (Dean of the college of Bible and Ministry) to be involved in the calculating of the votes. Dr Briley was to be in the meeting when the final results were tallied and posted, and he had the computerized tapes from the voting machines used in the arena, said Dean Gamble. She said that she hoped that by taking this action, rumors would be alleviated.

The letter was signed "Thanks, Dean Gamble."

(NOTE: If anyone would like to see the direct correspondence from the Deans to myself during this period, contact me and I'll show it to you word for word. For the purposes of the wide audience of the underground, however, I feel it is wise to substitute summaries for the content of their actual letters.)

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Thanks for ensuring a fair election. Like I hope I made perfectly clear, I did not believe the election would have been rigged even without an independent observer of the vote-counting process. But with a margin so close (each VP candidate receiving roughly a third of the vote, within 2 or 3 percentage points of each other) I am absolutely sure that the rumors would have really gotten out of hand had there not been someone neutral there counting the votes to counteract their effect. I was right that Benji was every bit as viable a candidate as the other two; the race was so tight it could have gone either way. You made a good-faith effort to deal with student concerns, no matter how unfounded they were, and I am really glad that you did so. My only regret in the matter (and I'm biased here, of course) is that Benji Jones missed the mark by such a slim margin. He really turned out the vote of a segment of population who otherwise might not have voted at all. It will be interesting to see who gets his block of votes now, Lincoln Rogers or Chris Collins. Or maybe, those people won't vote again at all. That's what my money is on.

Thanks again,

Daniel

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I received a short one-line email from Sarah Keith Gamble, thanking me for the above message.

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I then received an email from Dean McDowell.

He started off by saying he was glad I felt good about the integrity of the election results, and that he would love to have me drop by and talk about the whole thing. He said that he thought one statement in me initial email was off the mark, though. He thought I was incorrect when I referenced "the friction which exists between the average student (who feels that the administration treats them like children and bullies them) and the administration (who views every student daring to voice a less popular opinion as a threat." He begged to differ on that count.

He said that while he wouldn't argue that there was often friction on this (and every) campus between the administration and students, he didn't really think that the "average" student felt like the administration treated them like children and bullied them. He acknowledged that some felt that way, but that he didn't think it was the norm. He also said that he knew for a fact that the administration did not view dissent as a threat.

He went on to say that what bothered him about Benji's chapel speech was the "INAPPROPRIATE WAY" Benji's protest was voiced. He stated that in his opinion, "crude and sarcastic" remarks in the context of chapel were not the right way to voice dissent. He said that to think the method of delivery was offensive and to be threatened by the message were two different things. He said that he valued the dissent, and that the administration did too. The finished up by saying that there's a right way and a wrong way to go about voicing dissent. The implication was that Benji had gone about it the wrong way.

Once again, he invited me to come by and see him if I wanted to talk about it more.

The letter was signed "Blessings, Scott McDowell".

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Dean McDowell,

I probably would come by and personally talk to you about it if I were on campus during the day, but since I am at the capitol all day it's really not possible. I want you to know that I do understand where you're coming from. Although I heartily disagree, I do understand your points.

Benji did make a strong showing in the final tally, receiving roughly 1/3 of the vote. That means that roughly 1/3 of the students who voted got behind his message, which was to encourage chapel reform and a stronger SGA. I'd say a third of the campus counts as "the average student." That's a moot point open to debate, because it depends on how you define "average." You might be right that the average student doesn't come out and say they feel like they're treated as children... all I have to say is that as a student, who has talked to other students about their feelings on these matters, I have found a pattern. There are, of course, varying degrees of concern on this matter, from a sense of mild annoyance to anger. But the fact is, whether it's latent or on the surface, the average student feels improvements need to be made in student/administration relations, and that such improvements would consist of a more healthy respect between the students (as represented by the SGA) and the administration. That increased respect would be a two-way street. While I think that initially (during the first few officer meetings with the deans) a guerilla campaign such as Benji's might have discouraged such a respectful cooperation, in the long run it would have paid dividends for all involved. Why? After the initial period of confrontation, everyone would learn that no one was going to back down on the issues, and that mutual respect and compromise would be necessary. It would take a strong backbone such as Benji has to make that initial confrontation a reality, though. I can easily see a Lincoln Rogers, say, being intimidated by the big bad deans, and therefore backing down without a fight to avert conflict. While perhaps not every student on campus feels that the administration has pushed the SGA around and made them an irrelevant force, 1/3 of the student body took their voices to the ballots and said that they did. Benji's mission was to rescue the SGA from mediocrity, and make it truly representative of student concerns. He made a VERY STRONG showing for someone who was only running a campaign appealing to the unwashed unaffiliated masses, and that's something everyone would do well to take note of. Especially because those are the people who vote in much smaller percentages. For every one that votes in that constituency there is at least one (and probably more in the realm of two) that doesn't. The margin between him and front-runner Lincoln Rogers was only 5% of the vote. Just about every social clubber will turn out to vote; that's why Lincoln and Collins are in the run-offs. But if all the people who saw Benji as the most viable VP candidate to stand up for the common student had voted, there might not have even been a run-off. Under those circumstances, I believe Benji would have thrashed them both on the first day. Because, like I said, non-clubbers don't vote in the same numbers that clubbers do, and I am pretty sure Lincoln and Collins, between the two of them, monopolized the club vote. That's not bad, it's just the way it is. But I stand by my statement; Benji represented the non-clubber, average student and did amazingly well without having ties to SID or Tau Phi.

That's it for my punditry. But I think that the main issue here is something else you brought up, which is that "crude and sarcastic remarks in chapel are not the right way to voice dissent." The first point I would make here is that sarcasm is not a bad thing. By saying something in such a way that you make the statement you just made look stupid, all you're doing is pointing out the obvious. Take the obvious example, the statement "we all know nobody at Lipscomb drinks." Well, if nobody at Lipscomb drinks, why did someone write "I like beer" in one of the bathroom stalls in the computer center under the library? Why have I smelled spilt alcohol on more than one occasion on the elevators of high rise? I think we all know that there is a closet drinking problem at Lipscomb, and if anyone denies that they're blind. Lipscomb looks just like the rest of the world in about every way possible, except for it's shiny exterior, which is polished to hide the fact that the same people singing to God in chapel will be drinking alcohol the same night, and not in moderation. Sarcasm is not bad; it makes people think. I'm sure F. LaGard Smith and I agree on that point, at least.

Dr. Conger, in his rambling speech last year, did in a much less tactful way exactly what Benji did through the use of sarcasm; pointed out that there is a drinking problem at Lipscomb. Alcohol was a big topic in UB last year, as well. There is plenty of precedent for referencing Lipscomb's alcohol problem in chapel. Benji only touched on the same subject that has been touched on many times before in chapel. You might be upset that he didn't do it in such a way as to downplay the problem. Well, he didn't downplay it because we all know it's there, and there's no sense in downplaying it. The answer to Lipscomb's alcohol problem is not to hide it under a table and pretend like it doesn't exist; it is to deal with the facts, head-on. It is an issue, whether you are prepared to admit it or not. Maybe as SGA VP no one (including Benji) can get rid of the problem, but raising awareness is the first step to solving any problem. In sarcastically referencing the problem, Benji only did in chapel what the students themselves do on a daily basis, outside of chapel. And there's nothing inappropriate about that. If anyone was offended, it was because they have a double-standard. It is my view that the things people talk about outside of chapel should be the same issues we're talking about and addressing inside of chapel. And if there's a ban on that, it should be lifted immediately. Don't shoot the messenger (Benji) just because you don't like the message (a lot of people at Lipscomb drink). He merely stated a fact. And if 2% of the campus somehow didn't know that people at Lipscomb drink before Benji's speech, they know it now. And that's not a bad thing.

In reference to crude remarks, I can't think of any except the fact that he said "chapel sucks." Now, I remember a time when that was considered crude. I don't know where the term "sucks" originated. For all I know, originally it meant oral sex. If that's what it meant at one point, it doesn't mean that anymore. I don't think anyone of my age group knows exactly what "sucks" means. It's a word that exists for its own sake, and the only thing it means is that something is unpleasant. Anymore, "sucks" is a part of just about everyone's vocabulary. I've heard it used in chapel before by professors, and professors and students use it in class all the time. Once again, there is a precedent for using that word in chapel; Benji only did what others have done before without incident. I'm pretty sure Goldman has said it in chapel, I could probably go get the ETS tapes and verify that. I think Lee Camp has said it in chapel too; I know he says a lot worse outside of chapel, in his classes (assuming sucks was actually offensive, which I think most people would debate). At any rate, that's neither here nor there. At this point in the game, for anyone to get bent out of shape about the word "sucks" is ridiculous, because everyone uses it and doesn't think anything of it. Benji was trying to speak in a language, a vernacular if you will, that the students could identify with. He was trying to speak their language. He had two minutes, and was trying to use as few words as possible to sum up the message. So he said "chapel sucks" and it immediately connected. Later, he created a flier that expounded on what that actually meant; chapel needs more song leaders so we'll have variety in the song selection (how about 20 different guys, instead of the same perfect 4 or 5 over and over again? We have the talent on our campus). There should be more student speakers telling how God has worked in their lives and sharing uplifting stories to encourage the other students instead of business moguls talking about how their own hard work has helped them get to the top (oh yeah, and God was in there somewhere too). As it is, Benji feels (as do I) that all too often chapel is merely going through the motions just to say we have chapel. He was advocating putting some life into chapel. There's nothing crude about that.

The basic point is this; give someone two minutes to give a speech, and they're going to have to rely on sound bytes to sell themselves. When you only have two minutes to talk to the student body, a vision of what chapel could be like, as opposed to what it is, has to be summed up in two words just about everyone can identify with: "chapel sucks." And if someone has a problem with the word sucks, they obviously haven't had many conversations lately with the 30-and-under crowd, because it's not something that people of my age group find offensive.

The final point I want to make is about the money-grubbing deans part. Once again, he was trying to connect with student emotion, and mobilize those voters who felt marginalized by the system. He was trying to tell them "you have a viable candidate who represents the way you feel and will stand up for you, so go and vote." A lot of students have a problem with the deans going to the SGA and, say, practically forcing them into a corner on an issue such as a laser tag arena. The SGA felt that they were pretty much forced to do it in that case, despite the fact that they felt there would have been better uses of the money. And Benji was upset that the Deans will promise SGA money to, say, the professors' senate before they even ask the SGA for it. These are serious issues; it was not an attempt to be crude or sarcastic, but to show that he would take a stand against that kind of disrespect toward the SGA as vice-president.

You said there's a right way and a wrong way to show dissent. Well, what better way is there to buck the system than to stand before the entire student body and point out the things that need to change? Is Benji Jones supposed to just keep his concerns "underground?" I'm sure the administration would like to see these kinds of discussions relegated to the dusty halls of the Underground where they will never see the light, and where nobody will actually do anything to change the way things are. That's not dissent; that's cowardice. I think the Underground serves a purpose, but it also facilitates people bowing out instead of actually trying to make a difference. Sometimes there needs to be student action to change things instead of endless complaining that gets nobody anywhere. Once more, I have to disagree with you. Voicing dissent is comfortable for the administration when those voices are viewed as the fringe insurgents; they start to make you wonder, though, when they're a full third of the student body vote. All Benji did was mobilized those voices, and I guarantee you that there were a lot more who were just so disenchanted that they didn't bother to vote. I'm sorry if you feel the way he got across his message across was questionable. But I have talked to several students who had heard about the Deans meeting where Benji's campaign was the topic of discussion. The point of those students was, "why be mad at Benji, he was just saying what us students have been saying all along. He's speaking for us." They think, along with me, that there was nothing inappropriate about what Benji said, even if it did make a few people squirm.

That's my take on the issue. I know Benji well enough to know that he's a good button-pusher. That's what campaign speeches are supposed to be about: pushing the right buttons to get voters to respond to a solid agenda. A sterile speech that offends nobody is barely worth making. Like Jesus said, either be hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Jesus used shock and awe to be a polarizing force for social change; that's why he was crucified. Benji took a shock and awe approach similar to the one Jesus used. We need our SGA members to be polarizing forces not afraid to upset a few people and rock a few boats. Eyes are only opened when the boat is rocked. When Benji made a chapel speech that was as much social commentary as anything else, I don't see how anyone could do anything but commend him on standing up for his firmly-held beliefs. What is appropriate in chapel is entirely in the eyes of the beholder, I guess... I personally never thought I would see the opera in chapel, but I was wrong. Benji's speech, which highlighted things that needed to change, was certainly no more out of place in chapel than the opera was.

I appreciate your point of view on these matters; once again, I have to respectfully disagree with the position you're taking on them, because that position simply doesn't make much sense to me. But thanks again, as always, for being open to dialog.

Daniel

(Good grief, that took me about 45 minutes to read.  Questions?  Comments?  Click that little word "reply" just below this comment.  --Jeremy)

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LU#10 "In the Year 2000"
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IX, no. 225
April 22, 2003

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