Once again, the turnout for the annual Students? Association Senate election fell last week, from 1184 voters, or 31 percent of the undergraduates from last spring and 610 voters, equaling 16 percent from last fall, to 393 voters, or just 10 percent this fall. The spike in spring voting is due to the election of the SA President.
There are several factors that have been blamed for the poor voter turnout. Among others, few new students have a reason to learn how to use telnet to vote with the new WebMail access. There was also almost no advertising for the elections.
However, we believe that the problem is that the SA Senate simply doesn?t matter to the students, and justly so.
On the senate Web page, we could not easily find an explanation of exactly what the senate does. In order to find that information, we had to read several pages into the SA Constitution and Bylaws.
According to the SA Constitution and Bylaws the duties of the senate seem almost completely superfluous.
The senate acts as a mediator between students and the administration ? but in practice many students go directly to the administrators themselves when they need help. The senate assigns and confirms nominees to various committees, such as the SAAC ? but these committees could easily be elected directly.
Furthermore, senate has little visibility to students. Other than their minimal involvement in the upcoming pub and the forums discussing freshman housing ? which were ignored by the administration ? most students would be hard-pressed to name accomplishments on the part of the senate.
The most important issue relating to the low turnout is not something that can be corrected with a new voting mechanism or more prolific advertising. The senate is now in the unenviable position of needing to explain to all of us why they exist.