How can we get students to care about student government?

Elections show how little students care

Gabe Hewitt

As of April 11, there’s 13,903 students enrolled at this campus and only 2,155 of them cast ballots in Tuesday’s student government elections. That’s about 15 percent.

That’s a better percentage than previous years, but I think it could have been better.

I was talking with my friend about the elections and they said they didn’t care about them. In a nutshell, they said they were only at MNSU to get their education and didn’t want to become too involved with campus activities. I know my friend doesn’t speak for the entire campus community, but I would guess others feel the same and didn’t vote because of that.

People who believe that are underestimating the kind of impact a student government can have on a campus and the impact that their vote can have. Two initiatives from the newly named Student Government are the Maverick Textbook Reserve Program and the Enterprise CarShare program, two services that students use daily.

Beyond initiatives, the Student Government plays a vital role in delegating how our student fee dollars are spent. This is a process that happens every year and students should know more about the peers they elect to make these kinds of financial decisions.

Two key referendums in this year’s election dealt with increasing fees we pay in tuition and they both passed. There will be a 2.96 percent increase to the Student Activity Fee and a 4.04 percent increase to the Intercollegiate Athletics Fee. Depending on if you use the many services related to these fees or not, you may think these increases weren’t justified. But did you know about them?

The blame can be placed on the student body, but it can also be placed on the Student Government for not doing enough to make voters care. It’s the same thing every year: candidate flyers start adorning the hallways in late March with names, party affiliations and positions they’re running for. And that’s all we learn about them really. We might get a few mass emails leading up to the elections, but those are too easy to gloss over.

The Student Government provided a ‘Voter’s Guide’ for this year’s election that included biographies of those running and their response to the question, “Why are you choosing to run for a position on the MSSA?” Researching candidates is such an important part of any election process for a voter. But it’s impossible to research candidates when there’s no information provided about their platforms. I want to see responses to more questions in this guide. If I’m voting for an Off-Campus senator candidate, I want to know how they’re going to help me solve all the issues I have with my rental property company. Is that even what they do? What does a Student Body At-Large senator even do? We have a Newspaper Board, what?

There’s a number of ways to better increase voter knowledge. Create a more detailed Voter’s Guide for next year that allows candidates to explain their platforms. What are some key initiatives they’ll be fighting for if they’re elected? There’s debates for the president and vice-presidential candidates every year, why not have separate debates for the other contested positions? You’re probably thinking, “Gabe, that means there could be a dozen different debates. Who has the time for that?” Well, it’s worth a shot.

Candidates, host a Q&A with your potential voters. Make sure your platform gets out there. Produce the proper rule-abiding campaigning content to distribute to people. Use the student newspaper to your advantage. The student newspaper should be a resource for students and this would be a perfect opportunity. There could be a whole centerspread with the platforms of every candidate.

In my three years of schooling at MNSU, I’ve never once voted for a senator running for a position in the college I’m in, the College of Arts and Humanities. I didn’t vote because I had no idea who they were. And I would bet people voting in Tuesday’s elections didn’t know everyone on the ballot. You might have voted for your friend, but what if someone you didn’t know had ideas you liked better? This is dangerous. You get into a situation where you might be voting for the person with the coolest name or whoever sounds like they would be a Sagittarius. Your vote isn’t based on prior research or knowledge of the candidate at all.

It’s disheartening to see so little care, but I get it. I’m graduating this semester and won’t be coming back to MNSU. Why should I care what I vote for if I won’t be here to witness the results? The Student Government votes and advocates for issues that affect current and future students. Regardless of whether that’s you or not, your vote matters.

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