Dark horse: Non-politico eyes UVA election sweep

Published February 24, 2005, in issue 0408 of the Hook


"We think in America that it is necessary to introduce the people into every department of government as far as they are capable of exercising it, and that this is the only way to insure a long-continued and honest administration of its powers."–Thomas Jefferson to Abbe Arnoux, 1789

UVA is built on Jeffersonian principles such as student self-governance. Why, then, is UVA's Student Council so often run by individuals students malign as "politicos"?

That's what Greg Scanlon wants to know, and last semester the fourth-year psychology and government major hatched a plan to do something about it.

"We were just thinking how great it would be to get someone who's not really interested in it to run," he says, "like a Wesley Clark sort of thing."

That someone turned out to be third-year Curran Jhanjee, who soon found himself the subject of first the "Run Curran Run" campaign– dedicated to convincing him to run for Student Council President– and then the "Win Curran Win" campaign, which kicked off after he accepted the nomination.

It now aims to help him sweep the elections that start on Friday the 25th, in part by peppering sympathetic Wahoos all over campus with campaign stickers saying, "Hi, my name is: Curran."

"The thing about Curran is he's ludicrously modest," says Scanlon. "He was never really into this."

That's the whole point, according to Chris Wilson, the campaign's chief of staff. "The only great president you could have is someone who isn't in it for themselves," he says.

Recent graduate Brian Cook, who found himself drawn back to UVA by the campaign, agrees. "When student politics is concerned, too often people are running for things for their own reasons," he says. "They crave the title, they want the office, they like feeling important."

It's these very same ambitious politicos, chronically angling for rooms on The Lawn and ever eager to spout off Jefferson quotes, that inspire Win Curran Win's campaign slogan: "A tool of the people."

In short, they're everything Jhanjee isn't. "I'd love to win," the reluctant candidate says. "It would be fun." It doesn't sound like any law school applications are riding on this one.

"No one will really get excited if things are too serious," says Wilson. "If Curran doesn't pull this out, no one's going to go home crying."

The catch is that Curran might just take home the trophy. A smart move early in the campaign was creation of a Jhanjee group in UVA's corner of Thefacebook.com, a popular website that illustrates social networks on college campuses. Even though it's not a scientific measure, the "Win Curran Win" camp is cheered that Jhanjee's group has more registered supporters than the other candidates.

"We're doing oddly well right now," says mastermind Scanlon. "It's taken on a life of its own."

Jhanjee is similarly amazed by the swell of support. "We've had a couple of campaign meetings, which mostly consist of us sitting around and playing cards," he says. "I never figured it would get this far."

The only person who doesn't seem to be surprised is Wilson. "I was looking through the 1974 archives of the Cav Daily, and that's when Larry Sabato was president of Student Council. It's absolutely staggering what he was able to accomplish," he says. "We need to restore grassroots student activism, and what I love about Curran is that the people have really come together behind him.

"He works at Newcomb Hall at the desk on the third floor," Wilson adds, "which is right across from the student council office, so when he wins this election, it's just going to be a move of about 25 feet."

Wilson clearly seems confident, but does the pointedly nonchalant Jhanjee share the euphoria? Does he think he can win?

"I think so," he laughs, "I've been working out."

Curran Jhanjee