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Elections reveal student apathy

Observer Editorial | Monday, February 16, 2004

What a farce.That sums up the entire 2004 student body presidential election campaign that ended Sunday night, when the Student Senate elected Adam Istvan and Karla Bell president and vice president. From personal attacks directed toward one candidate to an electoral system that was placed in a lose-lose situation, this election ended in a way fitting for a campus thick with student apathy toward its elected leaders.Every candidate’s platform this year focused on combating student apathy toward student government. Now Istvan will face one of the toughest challenges of any student body president in simultaneously trying to fix the disenchantment with campus government demonstrated in this election and the flawed election procedures that helped propel him into power.Even those who believed in student government have to shake their heads at the election itself. Under the Student Union Constitution, when election results fail to yield a majority winner, representatives in the Student Senate pick the winner by casting their votes according to which candidate won a plurality in their dorm. Additionally, had there been a tie in the Senate vote, the student body vice president – Emily Chin, who was not elected to the position – would have made the tie-breaking decision.That meeting took three days to happen, even though dorm results were instantly available after the election. Whether the constitution was followed is anybody’s guess. The voting was closed to the public, and student government officials only revealed how each senator voted. Student body president Jeremy Lao, vice president Emily Chin and Judicial Council chairman Elliot Poindexter refused to release the dorm-by-dorm breakdown to The Observer – as has been done with every other election in at least the last three years, including the 2004 election primary – without giving a concrete reason. That isn’t exactly the best method for developing a closer relationship with students.Want to find out other places where this election fell short? Look at about the abuse Charlie Ebersol endured during his campaign, which far exceeded the amount of reasonable criticism a candidate encounters while running. Look at the 1,000-vote gain Istvan received in the run-off election, which leads one to wonder if people were voting for Istvan or against the unpopular Ebersol. Has student apathy reached such a point that students will pass up the most qualified yet least popular candidate – Ebersol – in favor of a candidate whose only experience with student government comes as a dorm commissioner – Istvan – because they believe student government doesn’t accomplish anything anyway?This attitude only fosters a cyclical relationship between students and their elected leaders. When a fundamentally flawed procedure is used to settle the election instead of actual vote totals, students have a reason to feel apathetic. In turn, they have a hard time taking candidates seriously because they don’t believe it will make difference. And in this instance, students’ votes led to the election of a president who is inexperienced in dealing with the inner workings of student government functions – and thus at a disadvantage when it comes to combating some of the problems that cause student apathy in the first place.