Open secret: The 2011 student government election was a complete joke and an institutional embarrassment.
When Chris Loumeau was elected student body president, not much more than two percent of over 32,000 students seemed to care.
Team Innovate ran unopposed, and composed completely of incumbents, with the mission “to fight for the students!” This should have unsettled any student who cares about what happens with their fees, and given every active member of UVUSA cause for alarm.
UVUSA is in charge of $12 million a semester, and students’ indifference about so much of their own money should be deeply unsettling.
When he became pressed to respond to the strange “apathy” noted by students, professors, UVU Review and others on campus, Loumeau wrote a letter. He addressed the implications that, because members of UVUSA are on the elections committee, and that for the past few years only a team of incumbents ever wins student elections, “the election process may be flawed.”
Loumeau responded with his feelings that there were “extremely rigid rules” to the process and that such rules may be particularly demanding on teams comprised of students from UVUSA. He also suggested that to get involved in politics required beginning from the bottom up to ensure leadership properly prepared by experience.
These answers were not adequate, and they are still as vacuous a year later.
I’ve only been a student on this campus for five years, but every year the rules have proved simply to protect the team who will, from the start, inevitably win.
To be specific: If you don’t know how to bend the rules and exploit the many gray areas in the UVUSA campaign handbook, you don’t have much of a chance against others who have been in the organization long enough to know better.
The election process is in need of reform, as does UVUSA, which is comprised primarily of students majoring in public relations, communications, business management and sometimes, medical science.
This is, in actuality, recycling from a homogeneous group of students that do not necessarily represent our strongest programs. Why is it that a student interested in humanities, physical sciences or performing arts is less adequate than public relations and communications?
A year ago, Loumeau suggested being involved in politics means working up the ladder “to ensure they have necessary experience.”
Good experience is indeed important. I just think that, at an undergraduate college, a philosophy major should have as many good ideas about running a higher learning institution as a business major, and should be given the chance to prove it.
Surely UVUSA is not the only student organization that can provide the right experience for someone who wants to run for the government. But during election time, “extremely rigid rules” will not help someone who comes from anywhere else.
True innovation would be a student government organization that is able to attend to the needs of so many thousands of students because it can reach every student group on campus. The majority of students, or at least more than the few at present, would have a thorough understanding of where fees go and why, how to contribute to campus prestige no matter your program, how to prepare for graduate school and the professional world with the help of student-run conferences and publications, and be better acquainted with current persons relevant to campus interests.
These things, and more, would help us become better citizens as well because actively participating in politics means actively participating in what’s already around you most of the time; no matter what corner of campus you spend the most time in, you can improve your time there, and the academic environment surrounding you, if you just know how to look for the opportunities.
But for the past year, our student government has, under Loumeau’s leadership, provided mostly opportunities for date nights and pretend-tailgates. Not many students know when senate hearings are or how to change the constitution. We don’t know why all the new building signs had to be paid for, in part, with our own fees, or why those same millions of dollars in fees have been helping pay for a football team for at least a decade.
Students might benefit from a campus event that brings prominent professors and serious professionals from credible universities and disciplines. This is in contrast to most speaker events involving famous “real life” celebrities who are typically related to feel-good sports movies (which are themselves of some dispute). Because such speakers always promise and deliver massive attendance, student government has it easy while various programs on our campus must pull together the funding on their own for a visit from a Sandy Skoglund, a Cornel West, or a Stephen Jay Gould.
One year after Team Innovate won an election, thanks to a weak and failed process, this student is asking just how much innovation he saw. Loumeau’s promises, and his answers to the implications of a flawed system, are as stale as they were last spring.
(UVUSA campaign bylaws: http://www.uvu.edu/
By Matthew Jonassaint