It is with great sorrow this year that I cannot engage in one of my favorite Duke traditions—The Mellgard Endorsements. Every year for the past three years, I have endorsed a candidate for Duke Student Government President on Facebook. Every year I have successfully and eventually backed the right candidate. I even boast a better record at endorsing the winning candidate than The Chronicle's Editorial Board. 

This year, however, as one of The Chronicle's columnists, I am not allowed to use my position to support any of the candidates. SAD!

The good news, however, is that while I cannot publicly endorse any candidate, I am allowed to discuss the endorsement policy in general. So here go my thoughts and a few warnings about endorsement procedure and policy in the DSG presidential election.

In regards to what the candidates say, I would like to note the following: some—if not all of the candidates—will either outright lie or exaggerate the truth to you. So from the start let me tell you no, you will not get extra SOFC funding and no, there will not be free Uber rides for everyone.

But those are the extremes and not the subtle exaggerations that more frequently occur. What I am more concerned about is how candidates present their previous work—after all the best lies are those based in some sort of truth. In an endorsement meeting, each candidates’ accomplishments should be questioned and carefully considered. They should be pressed on the broader issues related to this campus not just the ones relevant to their respective campaigns.

I do not mean to take away from what a candidate has to say. Instead, I hope that every group will begin to actually explore what each candidate has accomplished and the extent of their institutional knowledge. After all, every candidate will be giving stump speeches—ones carefully written and specifically tailored to the needs of specific student groups.

It is my hope then that student groups look past the rhetoric of these stump speeches and address the issues that actually matter and can be affected by a DSG president. I urge student groups to not concentrate on their own necessities but instead to ask themselves the more significant questions relevant to this presidential race.

Does this individual have institutional knowledge beyond their stump speech? Do you believe in what they have to say or are you just interested in the way they talk about what you want? Do you think they are someone who would work well with both administrators and students? Are they more interested in their own personal agenda than that of the student body?

While these questions do not even begin to cover the range of issues that should be considered, they do get at the heart of what it means to be a good candidate for DSG president. The right candidate is not always someone who promises you the world or the one you think will best suit your needs. Rather it is someone who, given the limited discretion we students have in board-level decisions, will be able to affect compromise and change with the administration.

The best DSG presidents I have seen are those who are able to change board-level policy to reflect students' needs, not those who have created their own ideas and policies from scratch. These presidents have shown time and time again that Duke Student Government has the ability to implement real change on this campus.

In that respect, let me issue an additional warning: something new does not always mean something better. In other words, just because a candidate seems like they offer a novel perspective on DSG does not make them more qualified than someone with more institutional knowledge and a better track record.

It is this assumption that often leads to the inaccurate criticisms levied at the institution. Individuals frequently levy criticism at DSG without knowledge of the time, effort and results of their projects and policy changes. They blame Duke Student Government for problems that are not actually relevant or able to be solved. It is my belief that while DSG often needs to restructure itself to reflect the times, the effort and change they currently create for Duke far outweigh any criticisms.

We are lucky to have a student government that has consistently promoted change from year to year and we, as a student body, continue to deserve a candidate that reflects that commitment.

Therefore, as we move forward with endorsements over the next week I plead the following to student groups: 

Endorse someone who you believe is competent. Endorse someone who you believe is a good person. But above all else endorse someone who will do work befitting all Duke students. After all, once the election is over, the only true obligation a candidate has is to themselves. 

George Mellgard is a Trinity senior. His column, "esse quam videri" runs on alternate Wednesdays.