Our View: Students need to invest in SGA elections

CW Editorial Board

It is a crying shame that only two of the eight Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Board positions have more than one candidate in the running. Even the two contested positions, which are president and vice president of financial affairs, only have two candidates each in the running.

On the About Us page of the SGA’s website, the SGA says, “We believe that the student body comes first and we are here to represent any concerns that come about in each student’s lives.” However, in an election where only 10 candidates are running for eight different positions, the student body simply does not have an adequately large selection from which to decide who will represent them.

Moreover, we suspect that the majority of these candidates are backed by the Machine. Politically independent organizations on campus need to do their part in providing potential SGA candidates with the tools they need for a fighting chance at winning high-level SGA elections.

An example is The Mallet Assembly, which is an organization on campus that was originally created in 1961 by John Blackburn to combat racial segregation and the long, influential arm of the Machine on campus. According to the front page of The Mallet Assembly’s website, it is “an independent living community designed to enable student-led social progress.”

Despite this stated goal, The Mallet Assembly seemingly tends to ignore elections and has done little to provide aid to potential independent candidates for positions in SGA. Mallet and similar legitimate, above-ground campus organizations should make a concerted effort every election to identify potential candidates and provide them with the support they need to run successful and impactful campaigns. If campus organizations took on such a role, they might be able to mitigate the powerful effects the Machine has on student politics and the SGA.

Without organizations to bolster them, independent students usually don’t have the resources necessary to acquire a significant portion of student votes. The struggle that independent candidates face when running for SGA office is only further entrenched by the reality that non-Greek students tend to vote at relatively low levels, while many Greek students are suspected to be coerced into voting for Machine-backed candidates.

For students lacking the automatic backing of large organizations on campus, namely Machine-affiliated fraternities and sororities, having enough time to campaign is essential. All of the candidates were given the same amount of time to campaign, but time is even more vital for candidates who lack the backing and, ironically, the legitimacy the Machine’s support provides.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Thursday’s election has a guaranteed outcome for almost every position, even those which are contested. This is indefensible and needs to change. Although having two contested positions with two candidates each is uncommon, it’s representative of a common theme in student government at the University.

Independent organizations on campus and the SGA itself need to demonstrate a commitment to holding elections in way that enables students who are not affiliated with the Machine to have a genuine shot at holding positions on the SGA Executive Board. If things remain as they are, SGA will continue to be disproportionately represented by Machine-backed candidates who remain unchallenged by much of the student body.