“I didn’t even know we had a student government,” Sariah Gutierrez tells me.
“Then I found out they’re the ones who put up all the stupid decorations. Why do we need so many cardboard cutouts of Harry Potter everywhere?” Perplexed, Gutierrez asks, “What else do they even do?”
The election process is flawed, and UVUSA runs too tight and monotonous an operation on this campus with millions of dollars, and they probably don’t have the right to do that. We will continue to make this argument until we see a positive change.
Many times, the primary counter to that argument is, “Then get off your seat and get involved.” I’m amused by the complete lack of imagination. In the spirit of unimaginative counters, why don’t our critics write a factual article that clears UVUSA of our so-called attacks?
Are those who challenge our criticisms aware that in 2009, two members of UVU Review attempted to run for student government and lost? Editor-in-Chief Jack Waters and News Editor Britnee Nguyen ran with Najib Niazi, a business student at the top of his class and known across the nation.
If Niazi was elected, he would have been the first international student in fifteen years to be elected president. He lost to Trevor Tooke — a president with good ambition who came from within UVUSA. There are reasons to believe it wasn’t a completely fair election, either.
How about 2010, when business students from Honors attempted to run against Richard Portwood, Tooke’s VP? These were smart, 4.0 students and so the cream of the Wolverine crop, academically speaking, who ran into trouble with funding. They lost to Portwood’s team. Portwood was one of our better recent presidents but he had incumbency, more funding and experience with Tooke on his side.
How far back does this pattern go? How many times have students from other corners of campus organized teams to run against UVUSA teams? How many times have those students lost? Why is it so important to UVUSA that one prepares to run for student government and gains the right experience by becoming a member of UVUSA? Should experience ever outweigh reform?
More questions are raised when I see who’s on the election committee this year. Why, for instance, are two members of Team Innovate on the committee when, in all likelihood, one VP from that team will run? All the talk about experience begins to feel like an abstraction defending the friendships in UVUSA. Is this anything but bias?
The answers to these questions surprise those who get blinded and confused by the spectacle of politics involved in campaigning. It’s a process that begins not in January, or during winter break between semesters, but sometimes much earlier, surprising students from the outside when the cards seem stacked against them so early in the game.
I’ve watched and reported on three student elections now, and I’m still pretty confused myself. So are the many students on this campus. Some of them don’t seem too happy about it, either.
My notes on students I’ve spoken with must wait until next week’s section. Until then, I’d like readers to consider the perspectives of two students: a junior in philosophy named Adam Wilson and a freshman in fine arts named Sariah Gutierrez.
Wilson is concerned with the difficult time he and others have had trying to learn about how their student fees are managed. “That’s federal law, I think,” he said. He also feels “the majority of student activities are necessarily disenfranchising to a signification portion of the student population,” and reforming the nature of those activities requires reforming UVUSA and the election process.
Gutierrez has similar concerns, but I believe she raises a much more radical question: she wonders if UVUSA segregates students. “I don’t think we need a student government,” she said. “Because, what do they do? What do they actually do for me?”
Gutierrez told me her impression of the need for a student government was really a need for someone to manage fees and coordinate activities, and she doesn’t believe it necessarily takes an entire student government to do that.
If UVUSA is just a group of students opening doors for each other and picking sides once a year for who gets tuition waivers, then that puts the other ninety percent of us at a disadvantage.
“Their position puts them above us,” Gutierrez argues, “and I don’t think that’s right.”
Gutierrez may be a freshman, but she raises a rather profound point for someone who has spent less than a year as a Wolverine: UVUSA does many good things for students, but if reform is necessary, certainly a fundamental question is what we want a student government organization for in the first place.
Many students still remain dissuaded from or apathetic about running for office — assuming that, like Gutierrez, they even knew we have a student government. What does UVUSA really do for you? What are good expectations for a university’s student government?
Loumeau and company are responsible for a lot of students, and a lot of money – about $12 million in student fees per semester, according to the budget recently released to UVU Review. An accountable leadership would be grateful for all this fussing and questioning.
One year after Team Innovate won the election unopposed, I’m still asking why. So should you.
By Matthew A. Jonassaint