Observers are quick to condemn UTD students for being apathetic and uninvolved in their campus, and it’s true that the first impression many people have of our campus consists largely of serious-looking students walking around quickly with ear buds in their ears.
However, there are reasons that UTD students are uninvolved; the reality is that the culpability for this situation may lie more with campus institutions than with the students themselves.
A perfect case study of this situation can be found in the recent Student Government (SG) elections. For those who don’t know (probably the majority of the student population), UTD students were able to vote online in the SG election from March 28-30.
Ignorance of the elections was the norm because of the ineffectiveness of SG’s advertising. While SG did put up some flyers, posters and Facebook posts, as well as hosting a few promotional events, many students were still unaware of the elections. It would have been great if someone had painted the Spirit Rocks, or if SG had taken advantage of its exclusive ability to chalk the campus for the election.
Therefore the situation essentially boiled down to this: The few who knew about elections were those who were already in SG and those who have friends who were already in SG. Ironically, even the privileged few who knew that SG elections were happening did not seem to care much.
Students attempted to form tickets and run for office, but the process rapidly became fraught with drama, and in the end only two tickets actually formed, Students United for Progress (sporting the brilliantly intelligent acronym SUP) and Student Advocates. Of these two tickets, only one was headed by candidates for president and vice president, who ran for their positions unopposed (except perhaps for the occasional Mickey Mouse write-in). This slim participation is unacceptable for an organization that makes so many important decisions about our campus.
It is unfair, though, to pin the blame for these problems solely on SG. Issues within the Election Code, specifically the ticket system, are the cause of most, if not all, of the drama surrounding SG elections, and generate the widespread perception that the elections are a popularity contest.
Tickets hypothetically sound like a good idea, as they provide the same benefits of any political alliance, such as a political party. Nevertheless, like political parties, tickets often prove to be problematic, especially at UTD. This year tickets did not even advance platforms or take stances on controversial student issues.
It seems that all tickets currently do is marginalize those equally qualified candidates who were unable to find a spot on a ticket. UTD would do well to follow the lead of UT Austin and other schools and eliminate the ticket system in their SG elections.
Another botched situation can be found in the MANDATORY (emphasis SG’s) candidate meeting that SG announced on its website. Perhaps partially because SG never listed a location for the meeting, attendance at this MANDATORY meeting was quite sparse: There weren’t more than seven people there.
Some individuals may have asked in advance to be excused from the meeting, but it is difficult to believe that everyone who ran for office (minus those seven in attendance) was excused.
These no-show candidates were still allowed to run for office. Those candidates who did show up to the MANDATORY meeting were rewarded by having the Election Code read to them and then emailed to them, in the off chance that they were actually capable of reading for themselves.
The problems continued even after voting was officially over. After a tiny part of the UTD population voted (approx. 700 out of 17,000 students), candidates received an email stating that election results were available in the SG suite.
Students who were not running wouldn’t have known the results of the elections. SG did not publicize them. As of the writing of this article they have not been put on the website. They were not emailed to the student body.
The general student body did not even receive notification that the results were available in the SG suite—only the candidates did. The Mercury did publicize some (not all) of the results, but it was not until April 18th, much later than it should have been.
Don’t let these past elections make you think that SG is hopeless; it has done many good things for the student population.
Each SG administration will have its deficiencies, but these deficiencies provide opportunities for the next administration to make positive changes. Hopefully our newly elected SG will take advantage of these opportunities and will give us better elections next year.