Stony Brook United Airlines Party is bringing a bit of satire to this year’s Undergraduate Student Government elections, but behind the humorous posts and doctored pictures on Facebook lies a political message.
The first post on the Stony Brook United Airlines Party Facebook page was posted on March 24. Since then, the page has gained over 290 likes and each of its posts have obtained numerous shares and likes, even from members of other parties running for USG.
The most liked and shared post on the page, from March 24, reads: “Are you tired of your student fees going to artists you don’t know? Well, earlier we announced our plan for big change on campus to USG, which mainly included turning the entire academic mall into a runway for United Airlines jet planes. I think this is something we can all ‘get on board with,’ and it’s change we can certainly believe in.”
A doctored image of a United Airlines plane on the Academic Mall accompanies the text post.
“Stony Brook United Airlines is a platform and a message to students that they shouldn’t be scared to become involved in student government because of the fear the their ideas are not valuable,” Chris Stubenrauch, a junior atmospheric science and applied mathematics major and one of the minds behind the party, said through Facebook. “The underlying message is that, as a student of the University, everybody has the right to speak up about important things and not enough people do.”
Stubenrauch, who is also the co-creator of the satirical YouTube show “Skies Over Stony Brook Newsbreak,” said the party started when he and a couple of his friends changed their Facebook profile pictures to satirically match the pictures of the people running in the elections. Those pictures include the candidate’s year, major, involvement, fun facts and initiatives.
Stubenrauch and his friends were told by other parties that they would never be elected to office, he said.
On April Fool’s Day, the United Airlines Party posted a photo on Facebook of a document from USG granting the party permission to officially run for elections. While it might have been a good April Fool’s prank, Brody Hooper, USG’s vice president of communications and public relations, stated that the party is not going to be on the ballot this April.
“We’re not concerned with not being on the ballot,” Stubenrauch said. “But the point is we might as well be on the ballot. There’s hundreds if not thousands of people that have heard about this ‘party’ and it’s sort of reassuring to know that if we were on the ballot, students would vote for us.”
In a post on its Facebook page, the party lists over 30 “senators” and encourages anyone to become a senator for the party simply by signing up on the page.
Many of the official parties running this spring have said that while they may not agree with the United Airline Party’s views, the group’s social media posts have been bringing attention to the election.
“Our position is that student engagement in this election is crucial to its democratic value,” Maximillian Shaps, the candidate for vice president of communications for the Stony Brook United Party, said through Facebook. “The Stony Brook United Airlines Party is engaging more people through comedy, so they’re allowing for a stronger democratic voice to take part in this election.”
The Student’s Party agreed that The United Airlines Party is creating a discussion about USG within the student body.
“We are not particularly for [the United Airlines Party],” John Mele, the candidate for vice president of academic affairs for the Student’s Party, said through Facebook. “But we also see it as something that is bringing attention to this election, which for USG in general can be seen as something more or less beneficial to the university.”
For the United Airlines Party, the attention it has been generating is indicative of its message.
“There are people that would vote for a non-existent party, and that’s the point,” Thomas Bloss, sophomore theater major and social media analyst for the United Airlines Party, said through Facebook. “We have 250 likes on a party page that doesn’t exist. Think of that in terms of what that could mean for someone with real ideas.”