Pay attention to the SGA elections

Ed Desk Blog

By: Jonathan Munshaw, Editor-in-Chief

Update (April 19): The SGA tickets have been announced, and there are two tickets running. One with Kurt Anderson as president and another with Gayon Sampson, the current Chief of Staff for the SGA, as president.

Original story

Last year, I jokingly bet then-Student Government Association Vice President Kevin Kutner that his ticket, which was running unopposed, couldn’t get at least 2,000 students to vote in that year’s election.

I won that bet.

Because the election was uncontested, it was tough to drum up student interest, and only 1,543 students voted. Out of over 22,000 students on campus, in an election for an organization that is supposed to support the entire student body.

Is it Kutner and his ticket’s fault that turnout was low? Obviously not. It’s an uncontested election.

But even the year before that, when there were three separate tickets running, just 2,805 students voted.

It’s time for students to step up and start paying more attention to the SGA election this time around.

I can’t say yet who the candidates will be and how many tickets there will be, but I can say that this year’s election is likely to be contested, and a turnout of less than 2,000 students is completely unacceptable.

With a low turnout, there is a high likelihood that certain populations on campus can swing the outcome of the whole election.

The precedent has been sent in the past few years that the candidates for SGA executive board have been involved in Greek Life and in a fraternity or sorority. If one candidate is able to dominate the Greek Life vote, and only 2,000 students vote in the election, Greek Life is going to have a huge say in who wins.

According to the fiscal year 2015 budget for the SGA, Kutner was paid $9,600 for his work, Vice President Becky Wiacek was paid $8,800, and the positions of treasurer, attorney general and chief of staff were all budgeted to receive $8,000 this year.

That’s not necessarily an outrageous amount of money, but it is enough money that students need to question the SGA tickets and seriously think about who they are voting for.

In all, the SGA’s budget for this year totaled $1,674,244.17. That all comes from student fees that we pay. That’s worth paying attention to.

Again, I’m not throwing this into the laps of the SGA. If students don’t want to vote, they won’t vote. Is it up the election committee to get the word out? Absolutely.

But I can guarantee the election committee finds a way to tell more than 2,000 students about the elections.

Think back to last semester during the tailgating controversy. During the process of suspending all forms of tailgating, and eventually bringing it back and tweaking the rules, Kutner and the SGA were the representatives for the students.

Students weren’t necessarily happy with all of the tailgating decisions, and most of the decisions had nothing to do with the SGA. But during conversations with the administration, Kutner was the go-to voice for the students.

If something like that were to come up in the future, students should know whom they could go to. Put a face to the title, and learn about the election.

The Towerlight will pursue extensive interviews with any and all tickets that are announced when the time comes, so I certainly encourage to read those.

But outside of that, find the SGA tickets on Facebook. Send them a message and ask them a question or voice a concern, or even find the candidates in-person on campus and talk to them.

Take these elections seriously, because students are voting on positions that make some pretty serious decisions on campus.

One thought on “Pay attention to the SGA elections

  1. This article makes an important point. Engaging in this process and being informed is important. With this much of our money moving around, and with actual, important issues like tailgating that we care about coming up to the administration all the time, having the right representation in the Student Government Association will have a fundamental role in making sure those issues go the way we students want them to.

    That said, I would challenge the Towerlight, going forward, to be more diligent year-round in regards to the SGA. Though thoughtful and cautionary words near the election are certainly needed, it has been my experience this year that the Towerlight is often uninformed/under-informed of what SGA is doing, both good and not-as-good. As with any organization, outside scrutiny is healthy and necessary (if annoying and frustrating at times to those on the inside), but I do not believe the Towerlight has done a sufficient job serving in that role, asking the tough questions or even knowing what questions to ask. There have been controversies and incredible successes in the SGA this year, but a search of Towerlight archives yields little information of either. There is the further problem that it is not my first instinct (nor I imagine many others’) to even bother going to the Towerlight for that information because our newspaper has long-since ceded its oversight role, if it ever even had it.

    If the Towerlight would like to challenge us to be more informed about the SGA elections, I think it’s only right to challenge the Towerlight to take the lead in that effort, and that requires more than candidate interviews and cautionary words in the two weeks leading up to elections.
    To appropriate a phrase from an editor-in-chief of a certain student newspaper, “it’s time for the Towerlight to step up and start paying more attention the SGA.”

    -Jon Connelly

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