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Let’s talk about the SGA election turnout

I am reminded this week of the February 11, 2005 issue of The Concordian: the top headline is “STUDENT APATHY” (capitalized, I assume, for journalistic panache). The subject of the article is the fact that the Student Association – as student government was then called – had only one team running for executive office. The candidates noted that the time commitment of the executive team may deter candidates. (Current estimates suggest the President and Vice President of Student Government Association spend 20 hours per week on the job. My experience with the past two administrations suggests this is an underestimate.) What Concordian writers couldn’t know in 2005 is that just three years later there would be another uncontested campaign. Both in terms of raw numbers and of percentages of students voting, this election had a higher turnout than the one we had last week.

I am stumped by the phrase “The Concordia Bubble.” As a doe-eyed freshman, I was told it reflects how campus life trumps our engagement with the outside world. But the more I reflect on the phrase, the more I ask myself the question: If we’re in a bubble, why don’t students care more about what happens within our bubble? In my opinion, the measure of student apathy is not whether many teams compete for a demanding, probably underpaid position; the measure of student apathy is voter turnout. As it stands, turnout for a Student Government election has not been lower (again, either as a count of votes or a percentage of students voting) since Spring 2007. (Faculty may remember the 2007 elections as the year the electronic voting system crashed, requiring all voters cast paper ballots.) Before any of the candidates beat themselves up, know you are not the problem here. Low turnout matters because it means Cobbers are apathetic about student government – the people who shape our future. We shouldn’t be.

Now more than ever, Student Government Association is making tangible changes to Concordia. Since the stellar Bachmeier-Dymoke-Connell-Keller-Elton executive team rebuilt a mostly defunct group last academic year, SGA has had its hands in some major projects. I won’t bore you with an exhaustive list of said projects (I’ll leave that to President Bachmeier), but suffice to say Concordia is changing (remember intervis?) and will continue to change as a result of members of our student government. A favorite example of mine from this year: after a student requested it, President Coop asked a facilities employee if the skyway could remain open late at night. Surprised that this wasn’t the case, the employee rectified the situation before the call ended. As a former East Complex resident, I know this spared students many a cold walk home. In addition to these discrete initiatives, SGA also plays a part in faculty committees throughout campus. Trust me, I was on one. In sum, SGA indisputably changes our school. Students should recognize that by increasing their interactions with SGA.

Let’s address the root cause of low voter turnout by engaging the whole campus. I call my proposal Concordia Bubble 2.0. Cobbers should live up to this saying by engaging with campus affairs at an unprecedented level. I want to see interest in Concordia and its future flourish on campus. Students should be lining the walls of the open door Student Senate and/or Faculty Senate meetings. At least one other person should hang out with me and read Concordia’s annual reports and Form 990s. More articles like Amber Morgan’s killer piece on Concordia’s budget deficit should line the pages of The Concordian. God forbid, students should read The Concordian. And yes, students should vote in SGA elections. If not, are we in a Concordia Bubble, or are we just disinterested?

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