Journal of College Student Development, May/Jun 1998 by Stoner, Kenneth L, Bennett, Laura A
Oxendine Publishing, Inc., Gainesville, FL: 1997, 228 pages, $24.95 (softcover)
Working collaboratively and productively with student leaders is one of the most important duties that challenge student affairs administrators daily. Thus, when asked to review this publication, the assignment was eagerly accepted and the assistance of an exceptional student leader, Laura Bennett, was solicited. Laura capably serves as President of the Association of University Residence Halls at the University of Kansas and was personally familiar with the pending publication of this text which was referenced at the "LeaderShape Institute" attended by Laura during the summer of 1997.
The book is a valuable reference, documenting the extremely creative techniques and innovative campaign strategies utilized by students seeking election to the highest student office on campus. The editor supplies a collection of 25 biographical stories from former student body presidents, each one giving a different synopsis of their journey to the position of Student Body President of their respective campus. Of these individuals, 15 represented state universities, 9 fit the classification of private institutions including two from women-only campuses, and one example was included from the successful campaign of a community college student body president. Of the 25, 14 were men and 11 were women. Most coalitions had some diversity representation or platform component; four of the student body presidents writing for this publication were considered of minority ethnicity. Of the 25, one individual was of nontraditional age (40), one served back-to-back terms as student body president, and another ran unopposed. All 25 individuals tell the reader in their own words why they ran for office, what they considered the issues to be, how their campaign strategy evolved, and what gave them the edge in being elected.
Engaging students in discussions of issues presented in this text can have only positive consequences. Issues worthy of careful consideration and discussion-such as ethics, values, voting-blocks, campaign finance and fundraising, volunteers, public relations and media strategies, coalitions, platforms, use of polls and feedback mechanisms, debating, and understanding campus concerns-all emerge from the firsthand account of individuals who were successful in their campaign bids. Utilization of the text as a foundation for discussions will meet an educational need rather than realize the promise of providing a blueprint on "How to get elected." Each student's essay provided inspiration, insight, and advice which covered topics such as door-to-door soliciting, knowing one's opponents, speaking to as many groups as possible, and utilizing volunteers. Retrospectively, following the election, some shared advice from lessons learned such as "Don't count on good press," and "Get a web site." Any student considering a campaign for election to office could benefit from reading this collection and, thus, the publication is recommended.
One contributor, Brooke Leslie, 1994-95 Student Government Association President of Texas AtM University, reminds the reader of the significance of college student elections as a microcosm of larger society. Brooke writes of her election:
Texas A&M University had just elected its first female student body president-me. Unbelievable. Even though Texas A&M is the third-largest university in the nation with 43,000 students, A&M's roots are largely in its history as a highly conservative, all-male, all-military school. My election was more than a personal victory-it was a sign of the transformation of a timehonored institution. (p. 203)
The work is a good collection of individual accounts, packaged in short, easy-to-read essays. The book would be extremely useful as a resource for initiating discussions at student leadership retreats. The value of the anthology compiled by Oxendine is in provoking thought and presenting an array of issues for discussion and further consideration by those active in student government. Learning from the experiences of others is always helpful, but getting elected is an experience unique to the environmental milieu and dynamics of institutional setting, individual personalities, and understanding the context of campus issues at a given point in time. Although the book suggests provision of information on "how to get [yourself] elected," it is a collection of successful campaign strategies and political techniques detailing "how someone [else] got elected." This work is recommended as an excellent resource for student affairs administrators.
Reviewed by Kenneth L. Stoner and Laura A. Bennett, University of Kansas
Copyright American College Personnel Association May/Jun 1998
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