The landscape for this year’s all school election is very different, candidates for two out of three positions were running unopposed, which inevitably opens up the question: why do few students choose to run? As someone not able to run but has done a series of projects on the student government election, I have something to say.
The most frequent word associated with the student government election was “a popularity contest” (and I know this happens not only in this year or at this school). Everyone spoke negatively about this term, “it shouldn’t be a popularity contest”, but the more often they deny it, the clearer it shows the connection between the two. I am not here to denounce the popularity contest, in fact, I totally agree our student government election should be just a popularity contest. This article attempts to find out the reasoning behind the sentiment among students.
The question is “to which extent that students believe the student government can affect school policies”. To clarify, I’m not here to discuss if they are actually capable, but how students feel about this question. From the survey we sent out to students, most feedback said they had no idea what the current student government did in the last school year. One commented, “a lot of decisions are out of their reach due to budget and such and faculty input on most things”. Students barely know what the student government has done, thus they lost their faith in them. Even if they saw changes on the campus, none of them tackled the hot button issues: food, dress code, student dormitory facilities. And I would say the core of the problem is that the student government doesn’t hold the ultimate power at school, they have little to say on most important things here. If the visual image of the role of the student government president is only to hold school meeting on fridays, why shouldn’t the election become a popularity contest? We always would rather see someone with personality and charisma to be out there.
I don’t give any advice, I’ve given too much advice to others in my personal life; I don’t give any solution, because there isn’t. I thought of some minor issues before I started writing. I could complain about the lack of political awareness among students, I could complain about the environment for student elections, I chose to speak of none of them. I am here only to share some of my observations and thoughts, to layout a possible answer to the question. Students shouldn’t be the one get blamed. No matter what voters choose, it’s justifiable in their mindset, even in the last Ukraine presidential election.
Above all, I am aware of the project Mr. Ruggles’ AP US Government class did, students came out to form campaign groups for candidates. They held a debate for VP candidates, organized meet and greets events in dorms. It was absolutely a great thing to do to promote student involvement. If there is any hope in a better student government election and a better community, it’s them.