This week I got an email from my editor asking me to write an article about the student government elections that took place over the last couple of days. My initial response was mild surprise because I wasn’t even aware that there were elections, or even an elected student government.
My second reaction was annoyance as I found myself asking why should I care? Does the student body government even really serve a function at Lane beyond giving its members a vague sense of purpose and participation?
Upon further investigation, I found that the members of the student government actually get paid a pretty significant wage (from $300-$600 a month) and every one of the most recent candidates was essentially running unopposed. I also discovered that the student body president is in charge of about a quarter million dollars of the school’s budget.
These revelations were vaguely unsettling, as part of my tuition is being used to pay people that I’ve never met fill positions with duties that I’m unaware of and determine how a portion of the school’s money (which also consists of my tuition dollars) is spent. Even more unsettling is that last year’s president was elected with less than 100 votes.
The election this year, an online survey on an obscure website called Orgsync, closed on the May 11. I literally only found it because my boss sent me a link to the page. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had an even lower voter turnout than last year’s election.
All of this is even more troubling when considering that the school has been proposing stringent budget cuts to close a ten million dollar deficit. These students, who could be entirely unqualified for all we know, are receiving payment for doing god knows what, while some of our overly-qualified faculty are facing unemployment next year.
What efforts were made by the administration or the current student government to advertise this election, or to raise student awareness of the government at all? How can we, the student body of LCC, be adequately represented when we’re asked to choose from a single candidate for the student body president, and for literally all of the other elected positions available?
After an informal conversation with two Lane senators, and a brief mention of potentially using funds to pay for a Youtube banner ad to advertise next year’s elections, I was still unclear as to what actions had been taken to raise student awareness. Honestly, even if I knew that the election was taking place, and I felt that the people running were qualified, why would I even take the time to vote?
Student representation is necessary at any college, but if there is to be a paid student government at our college, there must at least be some semblance of an effort to make every student here at Lane an active participant in the process.