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Last week we as a student body elected two people to lead our student government. Well, let’s rephrase that. Last week less than 20 percent of the student body voted to choose our next student government leaders.
The total student population this semester at CSU is over 32,000. Roughly 5,500 votes were cast in this most recent iteration of the ASCSU elections. The winners, Josh Silva and Michael Wells, received 1,440 votes, which encompasses about 4 percent of the student body.
Fear not all you non-voters, for I am not here to scold. I must admit that I was among the 27,000 of us who failed to cast a vote in this election. But such a paltry showing begs the question: does any of this matter? And, if it does, why doesn’t anyone outside of ASCSU seem to notice?
Let’s take a look at the issues elucidated in the last month or so by some of our candidates.
Candidates Hailey Morton and Yuval Rosenthal did a great job with word economy on their website where the issues section clocks in at a total of 3 words: “Inclusivity. Transparency. Connection.”
The Bohn-Syron campaign chose to forgo a website in favor of a Facebook page. Their “About” section contained one sentence with far too many commas before closing with the real meat of their campaign: “It’s time for you.” They actually had a very detailed campaign platform, but it was hidden as a post far down the page, at least on the mobile site.
Eddie Kendall and Kyrie Merline went with “Environment, Society, and Economy” for their slogan. According to their Facebook page this essentially boils down to getting buses to run on Sundays, implementing a $1 fee per student to fight food insecurity on campus and taking on the largely infeasible task of trying to change city laws in some way within the next year that would make off-campus housing more affordable.
Silva and Wells had the best website of the group, but as far as substance goes were just as lacking. Their platform was basically changing the RamRide app in some nebulous manner to make it more like Uber or Lyft and promising to “make it easier” for us to not take out student loans by freezing ASCSU fees next year.
While this last part certainly sounds appealing we all currently pay $43.25 per semester to fund ASCSU. Excuse me for not being super excited about knocking $5 off Debt Mountain. If they mean to freeze all student fees at the current level that is another thing entirely, but whether or not the ASCSU executives have that power is unclear.
You’d be forgiven at this point for assuming all of this to be nothing more than an exercise in sloganeering and a contest to see who can take their campaign pics in the dopest suits. Because, unless you watched the two-hour debate — which, judging by the 200 or so views of the video on CTV’s YouTube channel, not many did — or spent a significant amount of time digging through each of these websites and Facebook pages, you’d be hard pressed to choose a candidate based on anything else.
I did watch the debate. It was exceedingly long, but I came away feeling encouraged. All the candidates were well-spoken and clearly knew what they were talking about and they all seemed legitimately passionate about serving the student body.
From the outside ASCSU seems like an insular group of go-getters and resume-builders arguing amongst themselves about insignificant minutiae. After watching the debate it’s clear that this isn’t fully the case. But the larger student body only hears about ASCSU once a year and what they do hear is mainly limited to brief interactions on the plaza or a short visit to a Facebook page.
Silva and Wells seem fully capable of running the student government, especially if one views ASCSU mainly as a body that ensures our student fees are well spent. They both have served in the Department of Finance and, as Silva said in the debate, “we are the the only ticket on this entire stage that knows exactly how much every single ASCSU expenditure costs, why it was done and how it benefits students and that’s what we want to bring to the administration.”
Lack of voter participation is attributable, certainly, to voter apathy, but also reflects a failure on the part of ASCSU to communicate what purpose they serve and why it’s important. And unless Silva and Wells make good on another of their goals — namely that of “communicating what ASCSU is” — participation in next year’s elections will surely be just as pathetic.
Zane Womeldorph can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @zwomeldo