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Transparency key in fighting apathy

Staff Editorial | Friday, February 23, 2007

If student government truly wants to fight apathy, it can take a much-needed first step in the next three weeks by addressing the embarrassing confusion and unfortunate secrecy surrounding last week’s student body elections.

The trouble began when senators received inaccurate copies of the constitution at the beginning of their term. When so many students took the effort to vote “abstain” in the run-off election for student body president and vice president, the election went to the Student Senate. Senators thought they could then vote for the ticket they personally supported – a procedure listed in the faulty constitution. But student body vice president and Senate chair Bill Andrichik informed representatives of the discrepancy. In fact, senators must vote according to their dorm’s results. A senator only chooses his own preference when a dorm’s tally results in a tie.

After sorting out the mess, the Senate voted behind closed doors Sunday, following constitutional protocol. But that procedure is problematic.

First, if senators are obliged to follow the dorm’s results, why are the votes kept secret? Some students found out whom their senator voted for; others didn’t. With the current process, every student deserves the right to know which candidate his dorm picked and an open Senate hearing to ensure accountability. All that the closed door keeps out of the voting is oversight to guard against political maneuvering and votes contrary to the dorms’ tallies. This is a legitimate concern in an organization where many of the members are friends, and the ties run deeper than what’s presented in debates or on campaign posters.

With that in mind, the next question is simple: Why doesn’t the Judicial Council publish the results from each dorm immediately following the run-off?

Since the goal of the constitutional provision is to require senators to vote according to the constituents, the Judicial Council should eliminate the arbitrary suspense that follows sequestered results. The process should be open and organized, not closed and confused.

An amendment to the constitution that (a.) explicitly clarifies the voting provisions in the event of a non-majority, (b.) mandates that the Judicial Council publish dorm-by-dorm results in the run-off, and (c.) opens the Senate vote to the public would well serve the student body.

If student government wants to mean something at Notre Dame, it must be transparent. The current voting procedures are anything but.

The system is broken – it is inefficient, unorganized and unnecessary. It’s time student leaders fix those problems and address the issues that prompt so many students to take the time to vote “abstain.”

If they cannot meet the challenge, their inability to enact change will tell students that apathy is indeed the best response to student government