Objectivity and Impartiality
Whenever people are charged with responsibility for the planning, imlplementation and supervision of elections, the question of impartiality and objectivity arise. The dictionary defines impartial as not being biased and as unprejudiced. It defines objective as uninfluenced by emotional, surmise, or personal prejudice; based on observable phenomena; presented factually. The challenge is that our view of objectivity or impartiality is framed by, or some might say clouded by, our personal perspective and experience. Therefore, one person's view of what is objective or impartial behavior may be different from another's. It is important for the board to discuss and clearly establish baseline expectations for behavior from members which are grounded in the goal of creating an environment where candidates and students believe that they have been treated with concern, understanding, fairness, and objectivity. There are what may be described as universally accepted tenants regarding this goal. These include:
- Demonstrating a genuine concern for the individuals involved
- Listen, think, and then respond
- Treat people with dignity and fairness. it may not be possible to treat everyone equally because situations and rules may dictate responses, but people should feel that they were treated with dignity and fairness
- Gather all the information possible and listen to all points of view before arriving at a decision or before responding.
- Whenever possible don't react or respond in the "heat of the moment".
- Whenever possible engage in group discussion and/or obtain feedback before responding.
- Ask the person or persons involved if they understand your response and if they have any remaining questions.
- It is sometimes appropriate to ask the individuals involved what they believe is an appropriate response to a situation or question before deciding yourself.
- Follow-up with the individuals involved to see how they are feeling about the resolution.
- Whenever possible, follow precedent in making decisions or taking action.
- Don't become personally involved in a situation. Be able to assess whether you, for whatever reason, have become too involved or are perceived as a contributing factor to the problem by the individuals involved. When that is the case, excuse yourself from considering the issue.
- It is impossible to set aside your experiences when formulating your response. These experiences make you who you are and contribute to your success as a person. Recognize that and work to insure that these experiences don't become limitations which hinder your ability to be OBJECTIVE. Objectivity and impartiality as much as practical is your goal. Whenever you believe that your objectivity is compromised whether real or preveived then it is your obligation to excuse yourself. Only you can judge when that threshold has been met. If you are not sure, discuss it with the chair of the board or the SGA advisor.
- Deal in facts and tangibles. Using your senses, logic and an inquistive mind are useful tools. While intuition can be a valuable skill, its' use in remaining fair and objective is secondary.
- Don't read into things or presuppose. At the same time, it is a useful tool to follow the old adage that "if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, then it is a duck." Absolutes are seldom the case and interpretation and "shades of gray" are part of the challenges of administering a process of this type.
- Use the resources available (by-laws, procedures, fellow board members, advisor).
- Know the rules. Be informed. Don't wing it.
- Constantly strive for perfection, but recognize its allusiveness.
The democratic process at its best can be messy and at times chaotic. Yet, it is the foundation for our elections and something that our studets respect and prize. The democratic process is built upon the principles that all people are equal and that each is to be respected as a contributing citizen to the success of their respective community. With this in mind, you are stewards of the process by which we make decisions in a democratic society. No greater responsibility exists then to insure that people feel like their rights are protected and that they are respected.