Another year, another uncontested election
MANAGING NEWS EDITOR
When the ballot for Student Government Association (SGA) elections is released Wednesday, only one race will be contested. The rest of the executive board—including the candidate for student body president —will run unopposed.
This marks the fourth year in a row that the candidate for student body president is unchallenged and reveals a larger trend in university history. The anomalous 2011 election represents the only time since 1999 during which two full parties ran. The voter turnout also skyrocketed that year in comparison to 2010 and 2009, when 658 and 96 students voted in the elections respectively.
While the university community’s apathy toward SGA is particularly evident, this lack of engagement with the student government is not a UD-specific phenomenon.
Last month, five of the candidates in University of Alabama’s SGA elections ran unopposed (though this did not include its president) and 990 students (of a student body of approximately 27,000) voted in elections at University of Maryland in 2014.
Even at universities with more politically active student populations, such as Georgetown and Princeton, “joke” candidates proliferate. The editors of Georgetown’s satirical magazine were elected to the top two positions for next year, revealing students’ disillusionment with the organization. (The year before Georgetown’s student newspaper, The Hoya, refused to endorse any candidate as an expression of its frustration with past governments).
The University of Pennsylvania’s Undergraduate Assembly manages a budget of $2.1 million, but students, particularly those on the editorial staff at university newspapers, remain pessimistic about their government’s ability to enact any real change.
The university’s SGA, meanwhile, acts as a Registered Student Organization (RSO) with little to no control over the allocation of funds. All of SGA’s proposals are simply suggestions to administrators.
Despite these major obstacles, SGA president Ben Page-Gil said he is “proud” of what SGA achieved this year. Now that the organization has adjusted to the new structure instituted three years ago, its members have moved forward and better understand their responsibilities, Page-Gil said.
SGA’s work with the national “It’s On Us” campaign and Page-Gil’s involvement with the Faculty Senate Commission on Sexual Assault and Harassment show the new direction in which SGA is heading, he said. The creation of an Office of Sustainability next year also can largely be credited to the actions of SGA, specifically student affairs senator Becky Bronstein.
Page-Gil said the incoming SGA president, junior Rebecca Jaeger, has a lot of experience after serving as vice president of university affairs and will know how best to work with the administration.
“I do think it’s a shame, though [that she is running unopposed],” he said. “We changed the rules to expand the pool of eligibility this year, and it’s unfortunate that no one took that opportunity.”
Improving SGA’s image plays a huge role in Jaeger’s plans for next year, she said. Many students are not aware of SGA’s existence, and those that are aware do not see how SGA can improve their lives on campus, she said, so SGA plans to hold more open forums and also provide other platforms so students’ voices can be heard. She also will work to publicize fall elections more widely so there are a greater number of candidates.
“Hopefully we’ll have a smooth transition into next year and continue our strong ties with the administration,” Jaeger said.
Juniors Ross Schinik and Tim D’Agostino will square off for the position of vice president of university affairs in the only contested election on Wednesday’s ballot.
Read more about Schinik and D’Agostino’s platforms here.