In the midst of election season for Associated Students of Colorado State University, factors such as money, time and being outside of the organization are reasons students might not run in the election, said Sam Barthel, 2017 ASCSU election manager.
Barthel said prior to the elections, he tried to reach out to as many student groups as possible — especially those groups removed from the ASCSU sphere.
“Either people latch on (to ASCSU) or people don’t view it as something they want to commit time to,” Barthel said. “Obviously, we hope students who are interested (in running) come talk to us – but that is only so realistic.”
There is an idea that individuals not previously involved with ASCSU may not feel inclined to run or may not be able to get involved with ASCSU, presidential candidate Hailey Morton said.
“Despite some recent attempts at changing the culture, ASCSU is still very much a ‘good ole boys club,'” Morton wrote in an email to the Collegian. “The culture and elitist stigma that surrounds (ASCSU has) to change in order to draw in more student voices.”
Morton cited the difficulty in passing the Diversity Bill, a controversial ASCSU bill which created senator seats for different campus diversity offices, as one example of how difficult it is for outside voices and communities to get involved within the ASCSU body.
Morton is a presidential candidate with no prior ASCSU experience.
“I think there are a lot of barriers within the institution itself,” vice presidential candidate Tristan Syron said.
Syron described the parliamentary process, the system ASCSU uses to run their senate meetings, as intimidating, along with the idea that ASCSU is largely unfamiliar for students.
“No one really knows what (ASCSU) does on campus,” Syron said. “I think it’s overwhelming with formality … it’s scary. If you mess up, you get yelled at. I think it needs to be a more friendly environment.”
Nick Bohn, Syron’s running mate and presidential candidate, said not everyone knows ASCSU well enough to feel comfortable running for a position. Bohn said if a potential candidate wanted to change something big, they would need to know how.
Bohn said some students may not even be aware that elections are happening.
“Running for president and vice president is like applying for any other job,” Syron said. “You need to know what the job is in order to apply for it.”
Money is another important factor that might dissuade a lot of students from running, Barthel said.
“(A spending limit) still exists in attempt to allow campaigns to get their message out … so that elections aren’t just boring,” Barthel said.
Individuals running for a seat in the senate may only spend up to $200, while those running for president and vice president may spend up to $1,250. Barthel said the senatorial spending limit is not always used to its maximum because those seats are historically uncontested.
Each campaign is strictly limited to the budget; even donations are counted as part of what the campaign has spent.
Bohn said the rules surrounding spending limits make sense. Bohn said he believes donations can help students who may not otherwise have the money to spend out of pocket and that campaigns have the ability to outspend others campaigns.
Barthel said the spending limit used to be $2,000 for the presidential campaigns and that, if a campaign does not receive donations, a student’s own money might be expected, especially if their competition is using their own money.
“I think into the future we’ll lower it a bit more as we try to make it less of a barrier for students to access the elections,” Barthel said.
In addition to money potentially spent on campaigns, Morton wrote that the pay for positions within the executive branch is largely not a livable wage for students and may also deter students from running. Directors in the executive branch make $3,000 a semester, which breaks down to $2-$3 an hour, according to Morton.
Time commitment is another factor, especially during the campaign season, according to Barthel. He said free time goes out the window, but it is part of what those running should expect, as they are essentially running for a full-time job.
“It does put a toll on the campaign and might be factor for students,” Barthel said.
Barthel said campaigns try to keep their tables on the Plaza during the campaign season constantly staffed, recruiting friends or volunteers so that the candidates can still attend classes.
“We’re going to every single class,” Bohn said. “We’re here for an academic education first. (ASCSU) is serious work, but academics do come first.”
Barthel said it falls on the campaigns to get their message out as ASCSU strives to remain as impartial as possible. He said he hopes that by recruiting more candidates to run this year, more students will turn out to vote.
Collegian reporter Rachel Telljohn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @racheltelljohn.