For much of the academic year the UVU Review and many students are silent or otherwise ambivalent about student government (UVUSA). Now that elections are upon us, UVUSA and its aspiring leaders are taking center stage – literally (for Tuesday’s debate) and figuratively in the public arena. As in past years, opinions articles have recently resurfaced to criticize previous incumbent victories and call the election process “flawed.” In the present UVUSA constitution (Section II C), the Student Body President has the responsibility to “regulate and monitor the elections process” or appoint someone to do so. Additionally, the elections committee is comprised of current student council members who are often well acquainted with the incumbent teams. No matter how unfounded and false the accusations of inequality may be, the current election oversight from within UVUSA is an easy target for perceived unfairness. Having seen and personally experienced this process over the past few years and while this topic is on our minds and in our hallways, I have one simple yet concrete suggestion to unify us as a student body and restore trust in the student government electoral process: create a fully independent elections committee to oversee and facilitate elections each year. While the current elections committee and all those in the past which I observe effectively and honestly fulfilled their roles, a fully independent and autonomous committee or commission will remove any perception of favoritism toward a particular team. An independent committee – just like the current committee but comprised of impartial or unaffiliated students – will enforce election rules, promote student participation in elections, give all willing candidates the opportunity to serve and other responsibilities as directed. I strongly encourage the soon-to-be elected Executive Council to make the restructuring of the elections committee a top priority. Furthermore, I urge the UVU Review staff and the entire student body to begin this dialogue and set in motion the creation of an independent elections committee by calling for an amendment to the UVUSA constitution (this requires a special election before next spring).
It is my assessment that if we – particularly those whom we elect to represent us – implement a well-crafted elections committee reform, we will have a more transparent and trustworthy electoral system in the future.
-Richard T. Portwood
Former UVUSA Student Body President (2010-2011) and Executive Vice President (2009-2010).