Student government comes out of hiding for elections
Last year I organized and ran the student body presidential and vice presidential debates. But, truth be told, when it came time to vote, I abstained from voting for a presidential ticket. After reading the candidates’ platforms and listening to them speak, I was bored and uninterested. I found that the candidates did not appear to have a specific vision and were promoting incentives that I either wasn’t interested in or didn’t seem especially important; one set of candidates had even treated the whole thing as a joke.
To clarify, I didn’t abstain because I think that the roles of student body president and vice president aren’t important. Because of my involvement in The Tartan and other student groups, I see their importance and potential impact. The president and vice president are the voice of the student body to the administration. They have a sizable budget, viewable at https://stugov.andrew.cmu.edu/budgettracker/, which they can use as they see fit.
They also have the opportunity to speak with members of the administration who most students never see or do not seek out. Given these tasks, I’d even go as far as to say they have the ability to steer the direction of campus culture. The president and vice president could clearly play an important role on campus that the student body would recognize. But until student government finds a way to reach out and communicate with the student body, a lot of students will find themselves disconnected from it, like I did.
I do see some of the struggles of our current system. From what I’ve heard from friends at other schools, student government often organizes a lot of campus activities. Here, that role is covered by the Activities Board. This leaves room for interpretation as to what exactly student body president and vice president do. And I think if you asked the majority of campus what they do, the answer would be, “I don’t know.”
And that’s not good enough. If the student body president and vice president want to be an important and active part of campus life, they need to focus on letting students know what they can do and what they’d like to do and then keep them updated on progress. If the only time the campus community hears from the student body president and vice president is during a few weeks in March while campaigning, there is a problem with the system.
It’s campaigning time — student debates will be held this week. I’ve started reading the platforms and intend on attending the debates. I hope this year’s candidates seriously address the disconnect between student government and the student body, and I hope whomever is elected acts accordingly.