This Monday, the AAS Elections Committee hosted Speech Night for Executive Board hopefuls running in the elections this Thursday. Candidates for all the top positions on student government outlined their platforms: five of those speakers will guide and shape the direction the Senate will take over the next academic year.
Considering the weight of the above statement, The Student was dismayed by student attendance at Speech Night. Little over 40 students attended — astounding, considering that over 700 students usually vote in these elections. This meant that only around five percent of voters have actually heard their future student leaders publicly declare their platforms. Sure, students could approach all the candidates in person before Thursday, but let’s face it: that’s near next to impossible on your own time.
What else do students have left but campaigns to rely on? Short-lived campaigns rarely allow students to get to know the ideas and characters behind the candidates. Even after living amongst plastered faces on every dorm billboard or walking under names draped over a Val doorway, the average student still has no idea what these candidates care about, what they’ll do and much less rationally decide whether they’re best suited for the position.
There is a two way problem here: students don’t take the initiative to find information, and the Senate creates an atmosphere of inaccessibility.
The solutions also come in two forms: first, students should make an effort to get to know their candidates in a meaningful way — this does not include friday night conversations shrouded in a drunken haze. Rather, this should be informative, and it’s easy too — almost every candidate posts a Facebook page with a clearly outlined platform.
Second, the Senate needs a more inclusive culture, and students need to ensure that the future E-Board lives up to these promises. These two go hand in hand, since only an inclusive Senate can be a truly democratic Senate. Senators can create openness by reaching out to different dorms and student communities.
Many may say, but what’s the point? Inevitably apathetic after high school, most would agree that student government needs to be more than a popularity contest. In college, we’d hope that elections are based on the quality of the candidates, especially considering what’s at stake: all student clubs, a gargantuan sum of tuition dollars, and the power of the Senate to represent the student body to the administration, faculty and world at large. We hope that as the quality of student scrutiny increases, we’ll see a positive feedback cycle of improved student interest and engagement with the AAS — a well-picked E-Board member significantly improves Senate culture and productivity, and a productive, open and efficient E-Board serves the student body well.