Not too late to participate in student government
By Erin Beattie
When I look back on the past four years, I admit I honestly don’t remember voting in an ASSP election. I may have heard of ASSP and senate around campus during my four years, but I never had a desire to involve myself or learn more about what services they provide.
I remember election time during my years living in the dorms. Candidates went door to door sharing bite size candy bars along with bite size pieces of their platforms.
Now, if you asked me who they were and what they wanted to do on campus, I would have to admit that I never listened to their platforms and often shut my door to avoid the conversation.
I’m the type of person who goes to great lengths to avoid the poll workers standing outside of grocery stores, asking “Excuse me ma’am, have you registered to vote?” I will keep my head down, pretend to talk on the phone or fake an emergency to avoid this interaction at all costs.
I’ve watched and learned from others around me who do the same.
When I look at my own community at SPU, I realize that the real reason I never voted wasn’t because I don’t care or believe in the importance of a student government.
I didn’t vote because no one around me voted. I never felt convicted to vote because I didn’t know that my vote mattered.
I would argue that the majority of SPU feels the same. This is a problem and it needs to change.
Only 799 students voted in the most recent general election for ASSP core. There are 3,813 undergraduate students on our campus, which means that only 20 percent of the population voted this past year.
When I asked ASSP’s current Executive Vice President Danielle Meier for these numbers, she informed me that the primary election had even lower student participation with a mere 391 votes, 10 percent student engagement.
I wish I could say I was shocked when I saw these numbers, but I’m not.
Looking at them, I feel more convicted than I have in the past four years to reach out to my peers and challenge our avoidant behavior.
Our student government, comprised of ASSP Core and senate, is supposed to represent us.
But how accurate can that representation really be when only 20 percent of our student body participates in their election?
Even if we fail to vote, we shouldn’t shy away from the opportunity to let our elected officials know our needs and concerns as students on campus.
This is why senate exists. On their website, they describe their mission, stating that “Senate is to be a body of well-informed students who represent their fellow peers, find innovative solutions to student concerns, and facilitate interaction between the students and the administration, faculty, and staff.”
If you don’t know what senate is or what they do, don’t feel bad. I didn’t know much about them either before I looked up information on ASSP’s website. There you can find the ASSP Constitution, which outlines the duties of all elected student officials.
After spending a lot of time searching for more answers I found out my own housemate, Lillian Hollar, happens to serve as a commuter senator. It’s embarrassing, but I had no idea that she has been volunteering her Monday nights to represent SPU’s commuter population.
Hollar, who is a senior studying political science, took a few moments out of her busy schedule to talk about her experience this past year.
Hollar explained to me that oftentimes the work that gets done in senate goes under the radar. Students like me don’t realize that senators are not paid, but instead volunteer their time and energy to affect change on campus.
We don’t realize that senators put forth initiatives and make decisions based on the budget to better our community, whether that’s allocating funds so that clubs on campus can hold events or advocating for menstrual products to be put into our bathrooms. Senate is a place where a student can bring their concerns around campus and say “do something.”
“I joined senate because it has been important for me to make change if I wanted to,” Hollar said. “Because I was in this position I could understand what the budgets were. I knew how to write a proposal. I had this access to information where I could actually do something that other folks who weren’t in this role didn’t… or did know how to ask for. That really cuts folks off from making change happen.”
In a sense, we can look at senate as SPU’s local government. They can be a valuable resource to students when you seek them out. Hollar views her position as one that can be empowering to students with information on budgets and opportunities around campus.
“I was privileged enough to have information,” she said. “I learned the power that comes with that, the importance of listening to other folks instead of deciding what’s best for a community.”
Hollar hopes to be a stepping stone in her position, even if she only has a few more weeks to try to make change before she graduates. She views her position as the most touchable thing that students have access to on campus.
When we, as regular students, fail to participate in this conversation, change cannot happen. When we choose to be silent and apathetic towards our government, our government fails to meet our needs. They are forced to make decisions based on their own experience because we do not give our feedback.
Simply, I encourage my fellow peers to examine their own apathy. I encourage you to look up resources that are available to empower your experience on campus. There are so many.
I encourage you to ask questions. Maybe one of the reasons we don’t participate in our student government is that we feel uneducated or unaware of their roles. When I reached out to Hollar she provided me with explanation and documents that gave me much more of a sense of what she is able to do for students.
I encourage you to make your voice heard. If there’s something that you think would better your community, attend a senate meeting. Begin to discuss your needs with a whole group of people whose jobs are to connect you with resources and upper administration.
Although I personally have slept on many chances to be a part of change on campus, reaching out to Hollar showed me that there are people who genuinely care. They are available and ready for your questions and concerns. They want to help you in any way that they can, even if that’s directing you to someone else.
So now we must be the change we want to see at SPU. We must begin to care by putting forth the effort.
If you don’t do it, who will?
Erin is a senior studying journalism.