Pro/Con: Student Government elections: important or pointless?
Gregory D. Cook and Anthony B. Ellrodt
March 17, 2010
Filed under Opinion
Gregory D. Cook
It takes about five minutes, you stand in a short line, make a couple of multiple choice decisions on a piece of paper, drop it into a box and go about the rest of your day, with the knowledge that you have taken part in that most sacred of democratic rituals: voting.
And yet many students pass on this chance to have an active role in choosing who will best represent their interests in the Bakersfield College Student Government Association.
So, why exactly would it be important who gets elected to the SGA?
They are not reforming our health care, making new tax laws and hopefully they do not have the power to declare war on other colleges. In fact, many students on campus have no real idea what function the SGA actually performs, and at least a few of the people reading this are thinking “We have a student government?” So in all honesty, what difference does it make who we elect?
The simple answer is what makes the world go round, it’s the root of all evil and some people say it can’t buy happiness. That’s right, money, and the SGA controls a whole lot of it.
At the end of the fall 2009 semester, the Renegade Rip ran a story stating that the SGA was in control of over $750,000. Most of that money comes from student registration fees, and the good people of your student government, elected by the students that take the time to vote, are in charge of spending it.
They spend it on things like homecoming, spring fling, refurbishing the student center and the new food pantry. They have also been known to give some of it to various clubs and campus organizations to help fund their activities.
Not voting is the equivalent of putting that $750,000 in a cage with two howler monkeys, and then complaining when all they do is throw feces at people as they walk by. I like monkeys as much as the next guy, but even I can think of better uses for that kind of money.
SGA elections are your chance to decide who will be responsible for spending that money in ways that will benefit you.
Listen to the candidates, ask questions if you are unsure and make educated decisions about casting your vote.
As a member of the student body, you bear the responsibility of choosing your representatives. The democratic system depends on the voice of the people being heard, and nowhere is that voice louder than during an electoral process.
I have one final request. If you still choose not to vote, then please don’t complain when the SGA does something you don’t approve of.
On March 24 and 25 you will be given the chance to speak with your vote, if you can’t be bothered with standing in line for a couple of minutes to do that, then forever hold your peace.
Perhaps my grandfather, a WWII veteran, summed it up best when I turned 18 and was able to vote for the first time. He told me “If you’re not going to vote, you’re more of a dumb-ass than the other dumb-asses you just let choose for you.”
By Anthony B. Ellrodt
To put it succinctly, student elections are a joke. They’re just like every other political race in the world. Promises are made, great platforms are announced, and we all know the promises are never followed through with action.
In all honesty, there’s only so much you can do as an SGA officer. You can promise during your campaign that you’re going to bring pizza to the cafeteria once a week, make administration more accessible to the everyday student, and make parking easier in the east parking lot. Students will more than likely cheer you, elect you, then yell and scream at the end of the year because your promises haven’t come to fruition.
The fact of the matter is, if the administration says no, it’s no. No arguing, no yelling, no crying, just no. Then how do you explain that to your constituents? How do you explain to the students you represent that you can’t make good on your promises because the administration says no? You are going to have to catch the fallout for it and the administration knows it.
I would find it extremely refreshing if a student got up in front of the student population here at Bakersfield College and announced they were running simply because they want to get the stipend that all SGA officers get paid. That’s right everyone, SGA representatives don’t work for free. The amount of the stipend is up to $152 a week, or $608 a month. You also get a slew of other perks and benefits such as going to SGA retreats and national conferences in Washington, D.C. paid for by our student fees.
I wish, just once, someone would get up and tell the students they have no idea what they’re going to be able to accomplish. I wish they would say, “Hey, I’ll do my best, but other than that, I’m not making any promises.” I would more than likely vote for someone who was that honest. At least I know they’re going to actually try to accomplish something.
The elections are in 10 days and every position is open and available to be filled. There are some officers who are running again, and others that are leaving simply because this is their last semester at BC.
Individually, I think the SGA officers are good, well-meaning people. Overall, what have they accomplished? What have they done for the students they represent? How do we know the next installment of officers is going to be any better? Will they actually effect change on our campus, or will they succumb to what I call the “dark side” and just be in it for the additional money and prestige of being a student government representative? “Look at me, I’m an SGA officer!” God help us all. We’re going to have another semester of empty promises if we get that kind of person in office.
I guess you could look at it the other way though and do a write-in for Mickey Mouse, Goofy, or hey, how about Al Gore? I heard he’ll make a great government official.
My point is, if you do vote, make use of your right as a student and make sure they’re doing their jobs.