The deadline to apply to run for student body government has come and gone. During a time when the campaigns begin to take off, those running are refocusing their direction, as there is only one team that will be on the ballot for the Executive Council this year.
While even on the city government level candidates will frequently run unopposed, Richard Portword, current student body president, finds this situation and the lack of student involvement an “unfortunate trend.”
“This is a disservice for students to have only one team running because it takes away their democratic right to have choice and that’s essential in any election process,” Portwood said. “We want as many people running as possible, because it creates involvement, engagement and awareness of what’s happening on campus.”
According to Portwood, he and the current student officers are trying to assess why there was little student interest in running for office this year.
One drawback for some students, said Portwood, is the big time commitment that the positions require. Advertising was another factor.
“We are very aware, in thinking about what more could we have done,” Portwood said. “We definitely could have done better [with advertising], I’ll readily admit that there could have been more publicity put out about it.”
Another facet that could be playing a part in the drop in applications is the recent change in eligibility requirements.
According to Phil Clegg, assistant vice president of student life, three years ago the GPA requirement to run was changed from 2.5 to 3.0 and there has been a decrease in applicants since this change.
“This is the first time we’ve had this happen since I’ve been here, in the last 15 years. This is really uncommon,” Clegg said.
Although Portwood and Clegg have both advised other groups who were considering running for office, those groups decided it was not worth the money and effort to run, as they believed they could not win against the incumbents, according to Clegg.
Students were not required to run with a group and Portwood said there was a student who applied but failed to meet the GPA requirements.
According to Portwood, they follow proper electoral processes. While incumbents running for office have the chance to build a network of supporters over a year’s time, according to Clegg, the advisors who work directly with student government remain impartial and completely neutral during the election process.
“There are many rules that govern the election process,” said Nefi Acosta, chief justice and Elections Committee co-chair, in an email. “These rules are in place to allow for a fair and orderly election process and are enforced by the Elections Committee.”
Portwood, also co-chairing the Elections Committee, mentioned there is a possibility of a third party over seeing the elections in the future, but that a change like this would take some time.
The running team will still have to receive 50.1 percent of votes cast in order to be elected, according to the election bylaws. Just because there is only one team running, does not necessarily mean they will be elected, as there is the option of doing a write-in or voting to not vote by leaving the ballot blank when casting the ballot.
In place of a debate this year, the running team will be holding a question and answer session to get feedback from students in order to determine how they can best serve the student population during what will likely be their year in office.
“There’s a lot that can be improved here – and it will continue to be that way and students should recognize they can be the change they want to see,” Portwood said. there could have been more publicity put out about it.”