While U.S. voter turnout is, year-after-year, noticeably low, our campus may be facing a similar situation.
In the recent student government elections, only 13% of USF students voted, and only two of the positions this year’s election were contested. Even the position of ASUSF president only had one candidate.
For students, this number probably isn’t surprising. How much do you talk about the school’s student government, ASUSF Senate, with your friends? Election time is simply not a big deal to the majority of students. The Foghorn thinks there are many reasons behind the campus’ apathy toward Senate elections — both in voting and running — but we also think that our lack of interest has dangerous implications.
Most people don’t concern themselves with Senate elections because a lot of students don’t think that the Senate does anything of importance. After all, doesn’t most of the money and power lie with administration and the board of trustees?
Actually, it doesn’t. Our student government has key powers and makes impactful decisions. They oversee a budget of approximately $1 million. It was a Senate proposal that secured a second shuttle for students with disabilities and it was a Senate resolution that changed Phelan Hall to Toler Hall after the community learned of former mayor James D. Phelan’s racism.
Also, the majority of USF students live off-campus and don’t spend much of their time on-campus. People tend to care less about things they don’t think will affect them personally. If you don’t live on campus, you may think that you have less of a stake in campus affairs than a student who lives in Lone Mountain. We don’t agree with this stance, because we know that ASUSF Senate affects everyone.
Additionally, if the majority of positions in an organization only have one candidate, the entire idea of what a democratic election even means is put into question. The voting process, whether for ASUSF Senate or the president of the United States, is meant to figure out who the best person is for the job. This process grants legitimacy to election winners because, even if we don’t like the result, we know that the winner had to compete to earn their spot.
However, the lack of student participation in voting makes it seem like our representatives represent the small group of people who voted for them rather than a majority or even a plurality of the student body.
The lack of candidates comes down to the question of whether or not ASUSF Senate is a meritocracy. How can we know if a candidate is truly qualified to lead unless we see them questioned and compared to other candidates? We want the best students in these positions of power. Senate does important things, so it’s important to trust who’s doing them.
The Foghorn is concerned with the lack of student interest in campus politics. We think everyone should be, too.