Hot Air Promises: A History of Campaign Week Vows

With the resources and privileges that the Sciences Po administration allocates to them, lists ought to be subject to more checks and balances. To examine whether they keep their promises is a start. 

The earliest practitioners of the art of gilded promise-making in politics are those we find standing on our elementary school cafeteria table-tops, delivering their proprietary “Sermons of the Mount” with a chocolate milk carton in one hand and a marble notebook in the other. They speak of a rebellion of the masses, mobilizing community forces against the looming threats of “more homework, less recess time, and no more Pizza Wednesday’s,” and pandering to populist desires as if they were groomed for Capitol Hill in the womb. As distant as we may now be from that time in our lives, when election results were announced over the school PA system and confirmed on the auditorium stage, much of what made the election cycle go round back in the 2000s rings a similar tune to our own election season here in Reims. While we may not have been promised the traditional chocolate fountain and extended weekend that woos a great number of pre-pubescent voters, we were nevertheless curious to see whether or not the sacred practice of promising much and delivering little was as hallmark to our campus as it is to gubernatorial and presidential candidates on the hunt for office. 

To that end, we compiled an exhaustive list of every promise made by each victorious list and polled the campus on whether they felt the list had fully come true on a promise, somewhat made an attempt to fulfill it, dropped the ball entirely, or generally were not sure. To be able to quantify the success of each list, we developed a weighting system, attributing different number weights to each type of response, seen in the table below. 

We, however, did not weight certain promises more heavily than others in the final calculation of the success rate, as we felt it would be unfair to arbitrarily appoint importance unilaterally – that being said, we will make note of promises that we felt were indeed central to the campaign and ultimate election of a given list, and follow up in detail. We also took the liberty to “clean” the data to rid it of potential bias, not considering responses from bureau members on their own bureaus and other such ludicrous responses, such as responding “yes” to every question. While we do firmly believe that bias can balance itself fairly evenly, as we saw in our previous Beer Poll, here, bias only works in one direction, thus forcing us to maintain the integrity of the data by eliminating potential bias altogether. As a final note, we felt this article would be incomplete without the participation of the bureaus themselves, so, wanting to give them room to address and update the campus on the promises upon which they were elected, we asked each of them to write a communiqué regarding their progress halfway through the school year. Unfortunately, only the SPE and BDA responded, so while their sections will be complemented by their own comments on the data, the numbers alone will have to speak for the success of the BDE and AS. Now, the results.

AirBDE

Without even looking at any empirical indicators, the elephant in the room here is the fabled BDE app, once promising to help students on campus procure tutors, stay up to date on association events, search for jobs, and access mental health care, a project SciencesPo itself has not been able to execute, only delivering a half-baked dysfunctional calendar app several months ago. While the app is still yet to make its way to the Apple App Store or the Google Play store, it seems a portion of campus remains optimistic, with 11 students saying the BDE had “somewhat” come true on this promise, another 4 indicating they were not sure, and 1 brave soul asserting that the BDE had indeed created the app. The rest of the respondents were stationed in the “no” camp. Students had felt that the BDE was also rather weakhanded in cultivating a rolling list of job opportunities for students that extended past the SciencesPo library, with 31 saying they had not fulfilled their promise. On a more positive note, the BDE seemed to have excelled in the way of making exchanges feel welcome in Reims, as 20 people responded “yes”, with 17 more responding “somewhat” to give the promise a success rate of 65.6%. Addressing mental health issues also proved to be one of their great strengths, as close to ⅖ of respondents answered that they had provided the necessary resources and made proper health professionals available with frequency and at key times during the year. For a full breakdown, consult the graphic below.

AirBDE's Quarterly Success Score: 38.14%

Kick-AS

Our sporting friends at the Association Sportive liberally pledged themselves to 21 promises, notably vowing to introduce e-sports to campus life and lead regular cooking classes, among sundry other initiatives rolled out in April of last year. However, data suggests that the AS may have stretched themselves a bit too thin, as 10 of 21 promises received a success score of 15% or less, with 75.33% of respondents across these unmet promises asserting that the list had “not” done a sufficient job therein. On a rosier note, the work the AS had done with their running club was lauded by respondents, with 75% answering “yes” to their promise of organizing weekly jogs of varying lengths and intensities, and fetching a general success score of 81%, their highest across the board. Affordability and openness of the list also served as bright spots for the association, as questions pertaining to both pulled in success scores of 60% and 55%, respectively. For the rest of the data on their remaining promises, see the graph below.

Kick-AS' Quarterly Success Score: 24.04%

Utopiart

The case of the BDA is one where I feel our proprietary weighting system truly falls short for the first time – whereas it may have helped the BDE inflate their score, it does no justice to the emphasis Utopiart has placed on putting together artistic conventions, such as the Weimart and the vernissage, as these initiatives comprise a mere 10% of all promises made by the list in April, but a majority of their effort since the beginning of the school year. In their statement, the BDA explain that their commitments have significantly narrowed to now include chiefly partnerships and small- and large-scale events, moving away from their 20-promise docket they unfurled during Campaign Week in 2019. If this is to be taken into account, their new success score hits 43.68%, now a product of 7 promises that pertain to this new focus. However, for those students who voted for Utopiart under the pretenses that the bureau would, for instance, secure accredited music lessons or expose them to professional opportunities (promises that have success scores of 9.38% and 18.75%, respectively), frustration at this agenda shift is understandable. Addressing this, the BDA writes: “we also happen to be students much like you, who have to balance their academics, other associations and social responsibilities alongside bureau work. We are learning on the job really as none of us have been in these shoes before. There’s nothing that makes us happier than seeing you enjoying our events. Of course, nobody is perfect – we are more than open to your criticism. Besides, these events are here for you, and we will do anything within our power to make them better.” This being considered, it remains the list’s onus to treat all initial promises with some gravity, a tall but necessary task. For the rest of the data, see the graphs below, and to see the BDA’s full statement, scroll a little further.

Utopiart's Quarterly Success Score: 32.83%

Read the full statement from Utopiart

“Yes, our agenda this year has shifted from some of what we promised during the campaign. And yes, imperfections are to be expected (apologies to SPE for the plastic wrapped bananas at the Weimart – we live and we learn). We would like you to keep in mind that we have tried to realize most of what we promised during the campaign. Nevertheless,  administrative, fiscal, and time restrictions that we could not have known of before, have rendered some of our vision impossible. We do feel, however, that a lot of what we do flies under the radar, so we would like to use this opportunity in order to refresh your memory about much of what we organise, so you can make the best of our work.”

The Hive

Let’s start with the lows here, of which there were few: only 1 of 25 promises received a success score of less than 15%, namely, the promise to supply students on campus with pocket ashtrays, to avoid turning the area in front of the auditorium into Pompeii post-Vesuvius. The SPE is forthright in acknowledging that they had not met this promise, not offering an excuse or a plan to do so. For sub-50% success score promises, such as ones to add refrigerators to the cafeteria to avoid foodwaste, negotiate with campus administration to get cigarette butts recycled, and organize various excursions, the association provided a more substantial explanation for why they had fallen short, either citing extensive talks with Anne-Charlotte Amaury, student life director, that ultimately led to an impasse, weighing ecological responsibility and deciding to drop a project for its infeasibility, or running into problems with execution within a given timespan. Budgetary restrictions also proved to be a hindrance in the execution of many of these promises, an understandable phenomenon. With the highest success score across all lists (96.2%), though, the SPE’s promise to continue the organic basket initiative, along with 7 others, registered in the >50% range, implying that, according to the campus, 28%% of promises were at least somewhat met, 14% higher than the nadir of the permanent bureaus.

The Hive's Quarterly Success Score: 43.13%

Read the statement from The Hive

“First and foremost, we would like to thank you again for electing us as your SPE bureau for this academic year. We are honored to serve the student body in helping to lower Science Po’s environmental impact, encourage ecologically sound behaviors among individuals, and raise awareness about the urgency of the climate crisis on campus. During campaign week, we published a set of campaign promises upon which we reflect often.”

Promises Matter

We at the Quarterly do our best to understand the demands and responsibilities that fall on the permanent bureaus on our campus in Reims, and acknowledge that a large portion of campus life is generated from the work that they do. That being said, promises do matter, and when students vote for a list that puts forward a manifesto detailing what it will strive to do in the following academic year, they expect that efforts will be made to make true on the things that hoist the bureau into its position of power. If we are to believe that our elections are substantive, and that results are indicative of stronger campaigns and more alluring, feasible promises and not of a window-dressed popularity contest, accountability must be introduced into the equation, to hold lists to their campaign platforms, regardless of unforeseen circumstances and the like. As a school that prides itself on its political acumen and democratic leanings, it is only right that our very own democratic proceedings mimic those outside of our ivy-covered walls and are subject to the same checks and balances that everyone else is, from the cafeteria to the hallowed halls of government.

Written by Victor Podvalny. Edited by Jeppe Damberg.

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