Class president elections in high school were a joke. We all know that. However, one would expect college to be different. It usually is, but every once in a while, college students see something that reminds them of high school. Uncontested elections for student government here at Northwest elicit that sort of discouraging memory.
In an editorial in the Missourian Feb. 25, we detailed the importance of student participation in their student government. Student governments in college frequently deal with real issues involving serious implications on the University. Perhaps more importantly, they are often the only line between students and the University administration. That’s why it’s so disheartening that Northwest students and Student Senate seem to be so disconnected.
For those students who are aware of the Student Senate election, I’d like to point out that voting ends Friday and it is, unfortunately, devoid of selection. All four executive board positions: president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, are completely uncontested. The offices that are up for grabs are the representatives for each respective class (except freshmen), in addition to on-campus and off-campus representative. Students are allowed to select four or five out of a pool of candidates. Except the junior class representatives, which has a pool of nine, most of the pools exceed ten candidates.
Not having any choice in the elections for the highest office on campus is discouraging for several reasons. It means that there is no way the student body can be accurately represented in its governing body. Furthermore, it reveals that executive board positions are likely pre-determined and the candidates groomed by the current senate. Uncontested elections, at any level, eliminate the chance of a lively dialogue between candidates. The governed are then the losers because the candidates have little need to make a case to their constituents that they are the right person for the job.
Even the contested positions are almost inconsequential. For those running for class, on-campus and off-campus representative are routinely running for multiple offices and simply casting a wide net. Most will get some position on senate, although perhaps not the position they wanted.
Student Senate has become increasingly disconnected from the student body in recent years. Like their student constituents, they have also become apathetic. Their roster on the Northwest website is a year old and lists several unoccupied offices. Their offices may, in fact, be occupied, but there is no way to know, as there is no other roster available and the officers are not exactly well-known figures on campus. Additionally, they have not posted minutes from their meetings since April of 2013. Apparently, they also used to put out a newsletter but have not done so since October of 2012.
Many of us here at the Missourian cannot help but be reminded of the controversy Student Senate stirred in 2013 when they voted to bar Missouri Academy students from running for freshman and sophomore representative positions. The senate at the time was concerned that Academy students were overly represented on Student Senate. While revisiting that policy would not affect executive board elections, it could insert some much needed competition and debate into Student Senate. If they end up disproportionately representing underclassmen, then so be it. It just shows they are more concerned about student government than their older classmates.
So how did we get here? It is not the fault of either the student body or Student Senate. It is a collective apathy that has manifested itself in uncontested elections and abysmal voter turnouts. Student Senate likely feels no need to go the extra mile in reaching out to students, and most students could not care less about that fact.
We can either accept political apathy as a sign of the times or we can recognize that this is a problem easily fixed. Students and Student Senate must understand the importance of their respective roles and do their best repair the disjointed relationship between students and their government.