Boilerplate and Cliché in the UM CSG Elections

Elections for U of M’s Central Student Government (CSG) are happening this week, and I have no idea who to vote for. I’m having trouble finding differences between the platforms of the two parties, newMICH and Your Michigan and their various candidates. (Anyone who knows, you thoughts are very much appreciated!)

In my attempts to learn about and decide between the two women running to represent the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, I realized that one of the reasons I’m having trouble making up my mind is that both of their platforms include the very, very similar boilerplate phrases.

For example, both mention almost identically that they want to work toward the “expansion of CAPS to North Campus.” I think this is a great idea, and that it would be very valuable to have these services closer to where we can use them, but neither candidate presents a plan for doing so. The boilerplate statement is easy to agree with, and hides the fact that either woman suggests an actionable plan to accomplish her goals. Further, one says she wants to “bridge the gap between SMTD students and students in academic majors on campus,” and the other that she aims to “make positive change and represent the voices of all communities on campus in Central Student Government by making it more inclusive, representative, and productive.” Again, these all sound great on the surface. Yet, as I attempt to dig deeper into each platform, to figure out how each candidate’s work as representative would differ from her opposition’s, I realize that such vague, easily agreeable language masks each platform’s lack of concrete details and ideas.

Clichés are also flying around the interwebs this election season. Everywhere I look, I am reminded that “YOUR VOICE MATTERS!” I’ve seen this phrase everywhere, verbatim, for as long as I’ve been paying attention to politics. While I appreciate this vote of confidence and legitimacy, being told this again and again gets a little old. The reminder is nice–and, of course, important– but some varied word choice would be appreciated.

I care a lot who is representing my voice at this school, and while boilerplate and clichés make each candidate seem accessible and puts her into a positive light, such heavy reliance on them prevents me from being able to fully understand my options for representative and make an informed decision as to for whom to vote. Too bad college elections don’t hold debates! Although, as boilerplate is such a staple of political-speak, I’m not sure we’d get much out from under this language problem even then.

2 thoughts to “Boilerplate and Cliché in the UM CSG Elections”

  1. I think it’s really interesting that you would consider the political sphere and its dependence on both boilerplate and cliches! Additionally, you brought up that you think it would be great for college elections to have debates–I think that would be particularly fun to watch, mainly given that both sides would probably end up tossing around the same boilerplate phrases that drive us all so crazy when trying to define each side’s platform. When it comes to the whole idea of cliches, what I always wonder is that if there weren’t cliches like “Your voice matters,” would we even take the party seriously? We look at those phrases and roll our eyes at the cliches, but if they didn’t tell us that our voices matter, wouldn’t we be wondering why? It’s interesting to think about how embedded boilerplate and cliches are in so many forms of rhetoric that we would probably miss them a lot (despite how easy it is to complain about an abundance of cliches!).

    1. That’s a really good point! We can hate on boilerplate and cliché all we want, but in a lot of ways we are taking them for granted. You’re right that we’d probably miss it if it weren’t there–such grand, all-encompassing phrases can provide a sense of inclusion and reassurance, even if they are pretty vague. I wonder if there’s another way to get the same feelings across to an audience without using such overused and too broad language, or if these types of phrases are unique enough that we’d lose something were they never used again… Thanks for bringing this up!

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