It’s that time of year when colorful campaign signs decorate Trousdale Parkway’s lawns, signaling the arrival of Undergraduate Student Government elections.
Over the last two weeks, candidates for president, vice president and senator positions have vigorously competed for student votes through mass emails, public debates, social media, word of mouth, sleek websites and sophisticated videos.
For students who are involved with USG, personally acquainted with the candidates or actively involved on campus, it’s an exciting and eventful time.
But what about everyone else? Past voting records show that approximately 70 percent of undergraduate students don’t vote in USG elections.
Although the 5,629 total ballots cast last year represented an impressive 23 percent increase over the previous year, it’s still a fraction of the 17,500 students that comprise USC’s undergraduate student body. That’s a huge, untapped population opting for indifference.
Simply put, more students need to vote.
Let’s consider why USG’s leadership should matter to students in the first place.
The reality is that USC administrators simply can’t listen to all 17,500 undergraduate voices at once. USG serves as the liaison between students and the administration, where each director has direct contact with senior level administrators.
“The student body president and vice president are the images of the student body most visible to senior level administration,” said Elise Fabbro, director of elections and recruitment at USG. “In short, USG has the tools to make change happen in the university, and all they are doing is waiting for you to tell them what you want.”
Some students feel that if they don’t know the candidates personally, they have no real reason to back a certain person.
If students are passionate about seeing improvements on campus, however, it’s likely that one of the tickets supports their interests. Current candidates are taking on a wide variety of issues. Jared Ginsburg and Samantha Coxe are advocating for fall break; Theo Offei and Julia Riley are pushing for two-unit grad school exam prep classes; Mikey Geragos and Vinnie Prasad are aiming to improve the quality of residential dining facilities.
Moreover, students who are wary of candidates making false promises should be aware that many past USG leaders have followed through on their original platform points.
Improving sustainability, increasing hours of hospitality venues at the campus center and adding a fall break were among the key platform points for current USG President Monish Tyagi and Vice President Logan Lachman. In the past year, USG has extended the hours of operation at Seeds Marketplace from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., tackled campus bicycle traffic and passed a resolution on fall break.
“You want to choose people who you think will have your best interests at heart, who will represent student interests and go to bat with them,” Tyagi said. “While [USG officers] don’t directly make changes, they will be the people who are suggesting changes.”
It’s also important to keep in mind that USG will set the ball in motion on policies that are implemented further down the road. Students who transferred their football game credits to friends without season tickets can trace the option back to Holden Slusher and Ashlie Chan’s administration in 2009. Similarly, next year’s president and vice president will pick up where Tyagi and Lachman left off on instituting a fall break.
If students are still not convinced, the 2011-2012 USG budget is $1.8 million. $57.50 of every student’s semester fees automatically goes toward USG. If all students were cognizant of that fact, they would care more about giving their dollars to student leaders whose vision for USC aligns with their own.
Our generation is often accused of being apathetic. But even if you can’t attend a political event or a midterm election, effecting change right here on campus is simple.
Let’s continue the trend of higher student turnout at elections and exceed USG’s new goal of 7,000 votes this year. Take the time to cast a vote online or at an on-campus voting booth and have a say in making changes that will impact USC both now and after graduation.
Jasmine Ako is a senior majoring in business administration.