SG Forgoes Traditional Party Systems for Tickets

2021 SG Staff Made a Decision That Would Change FGCU Elections Permanently


Photo courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

Abigail Muth, Staff Writer

Up until two elections ago, in 2021, Student Government candidates would run in political parties. The winning presidential and vice presidential ticket that year changed FGCU’s election future forever.

Unlike surrounding schools who have long, detailed histories of party systems on campus, FGCU is a young school and does not have as long a backhistory of student government parties. When running for student government positions in the past, it was unusual to run independently, whereas now they no longer use parties at all. 

Each presidential and vice presidential candidate was tasked with coming up with a party for their campaign or reuse one from the past and then gather students who would be willing to join their party and run for senate with them. 

The SG party system mimics America’s multi-party system, but the parties aren’t as simple as choosing to be a part of the Democratic or Republican party like many assume. These SG parties must be invented and reflect what the ticket stands for.

2021 Presidential Candidate Alyssa Fleischer and Vice Presidential Candidate Gracie Dougherty concluded it was unfair to run in a party when that made it harder for students with no prior connections to have the opportunity to represent their college and classmates. 

“So if you were a freshman in the dorms and you didn’t know Alyssa and I, there was a really slim chance you were going to get into our party, because how would we have known,” former SG Vice President Gracie Dougherty said. “If you did run as an independent against a whole party, the chances of you getting in weren’t great.”

Presidential, vice presidential, treasurer and senatorial candidates had the option to run independently, but it made it difficult to win and therefore made it unpopular.

“We wanted to find a way that was more fair so that even if you didn’t know someone you could still be in Student Government. You didn’t have to know people to get in,” Dougherty said. 

When making this decision, Fleischer and Dougherty already created a party of their own. They decided to share with their party that they were going to disband and run as an independent ticket. Many of the senators they had previously included in their party were not happy with this decision. 

“I pulled out my application and we weren’t going to run at all, [the backlash] got so bad. A lot of people weren’t happy with us,” Dougherty said. “Alyssa hadn’t pulled hers out in time. We weren’t sure if we wanted to [run] because there was so much negative backlash about it and it was a lot to take.” 

After making the final decision to run independently, they knew the odds were not in their favor. They had almost a full party against them, as many of the students previously running with them joined the opposing party after they announced they would disband. 

Fleischer and Dougherty won student body president and vice president in 2021. Once the elections were over and the supervisor of elections was able to amend the code of elections, they did. 

“They kept Alyssa and I out of it. They didn’t tell us it was going to happen until they put it up into the judicial branch meeting and pushed it through. We didn’t know, it was kind of a surprise,” Dougherty said. 

They did not know they had influenced a change of future FGCU elections until after the election code had already been updated. Because of the strict relationship between candidates and the supervisor of elections, they were not aware it was being considered for change. 

“I still think having parties like that is not very inclusive and doesn’t allow everyone to have a voice or a seat at the table. I am glad it stuck,” Dougherty said. “I think it’s cool that something we put so much literal blood, sweat and tears into is going to be something that still happens in the future.”

It was difficult at first for them to start their jobs as student body president and vice president as an independent party. Many of the senators that had originated in their party that switched to the other party had been elected into other SG positions. 

Some of these senators applied for a spot in their cabinet where they would spend time working and interacting with the president and vice president. 

“We were a team. It was a little bit of an adjustment, but by the end of the year you couldn’t tell who had run with which party or who voted for who,” Dougherty said. “We were very cohesive and a strong team by the end of it, it just took a little bit.”