Another Students’ Association Senate election has ended, and we must again ask ourselves what happened. Why were so many of the Senate seats uncontested, and why was turnout so low? Why is it that no one seems to care?
In this week’s election, 13 Senate seats were up out of a total 21. Despite this however, voter turnout was only 11 percent. The unfortunate part of this story is that this number is expected. Last fall the Senate election had a 15 percent voter turnout, and the fall before that approximately 10 percent of students chose to vote.
Over the last few years there has been substantial discussion concerning this problem. This has resulted in more advertising of Senate elections, e-mails being sent to the student body and a new Web-based voting system. None of these solutions have addressed the actual problem.
The reason the vast majority of people don’t vote is because it just doesn’t matter to them, and why should it? Look at the campaign platforms submitted for this Senate election. Platforms called for better food, better parking and better security. They had a general theme of senators wanting to represent you — their constituents.
Our Students’ Association, in particular the Senate, has a large amount of power, but it’s not concerning dining or parking. The power of the Senate concerns money, student activities and student organizations. Every April the Students’ Association Appropriations Committee prepares our budget and makes a recommendation to the Senate. The Senate then votes on it and decides how much money each organization gets.
This year, the Senate has allocated over $800,000 to almost 70 student groups. The decision of whether more money is spent on cultural programming, comedians, bands, smaller performance groups or club sports is up to the Senate.
The problem is that over the past few years, the Senate has not spent very much time dealing with the budget, despite its importance. The Senate has not set funding priorities or outlined what we are trying to accomplish when deciding how much money to give groups.
When the Senate gets intimately involved in the finances of the SA, and our budgeting process, they will have a substantial effect on student life and the student body.
When the Senate begins to put more thought and energy into our finances, two things will happen. First, our budget will make more sense — where money goes will reflect our priorities. Second, when the Senate begins to make those important decisions students will start caring more about elections.
Mallach can be reached at email@example.com.