During the week of the Miss Homecoming election, I was walking from my transit to class when a group of four girls wearing bright shirts approached me, forming a circle. Feeling uncomfortable, I began to walk away, but they all took a step forward with me.
"Have you voted for (candidate)?" they asked. "Do you know how to vote? Can we help you vote?"
One of the girls even proceeded to reach for my phone in hopes of using it to vote for her candidate on my AUaccess account. I pulled my phone closer to me, told them I had already voted for whatever candidate they were shoving down my throat and walked away.
At this point, it was no longer about their candidate or her platform, but who could harass the most people into voting out of annoyance or fear.
Tell me, how does anyone think this method is successful?
If anything, these groups are creating the opposite effect. In this scenario, I lied and told the girls I had already voted, and because of this encounter, I did not vote at all. They put a bad taste in my mouth for their candidate when she had done nothing wrong.
There are some benefits to this, yes, such as reaching students who would not have otherwise voted. But if taking someone's phone to vote for them is the way they choose to do it then the vote becomes completely ingenuine and that person is being reduced to simply just another vote.
Even though this event did not take place on the Haley Concourse, ones similar to it happen there each and every day. Women and men stand on the concourse in groups all the time yelling at people, throwing things at them and bothering them until they get what they want.
Don't get me wrong – I am all for students sharing their passions with others. It is important to inform other students, and campus is a great thing to utilize in doing this. But bothering students who are clearly uninterested is another story.
There are many organizations who do this correctly. Some groups peacefully share their messages in a rational way. This approach is much more successful than the other.
Having one or two people who support a cause stand on the concourse explaining in greater detail to those interested is completely different than the dehumanizing nature of chucking free candy or fliers at people who are desperately walking faster to avoid being approached.
After Homecoming week's events, I have made sure to avoid the concourse whenever I can. Whenever I walk from the Student Center to Foy Hall and see large groups of people jumping around and screaming, I cut through the Haley Center just to make sure I don't get yelled at.
The concourse is supposed to be a place for students to gather freely and walk to class. It should not be a place they have to avoid and pretend to talk on the phone just to get away from people in big T-shirts.
Again, campus is fair game for organizations to raise awareness, and I am not saying we should not take advantage of the space. However, there is a way to do it without bothering students into getting what you want.