A political frenzy has taken Simpson College by storm, with potential presidential candidates Donald Trump and Martin O’Malley recently visiting campus and David Axelrod giving the 5th Annual Culver Lecture on Tuesday.
So far, Republican household names such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz officially announced their candidacy, and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, entered the race via Twitter.
In mirroring the political hype, Simpson’s own elections for the Student Government Association (SGA) are underway this week.
The main issues surfacing this election cycle include changes to the student handbook, student pay, technological barriers such as wifi limitations and email policies, the usage of parking garages and transparency with the student body.
Junior senator, Ruth Roberts, says, “I don’t think students really realize what all SGA does, and I don’t think SGA does a very good of getting that information out to students either. I think it’s a two-way street.”
To increase accessibility to SGA, Roberts says “minutes,” or a summary of its meetings, are posted in a more convenient location.
Moreover, SGA has recently sent surveys to gain better perspective of how the student body views a particular issue, such as electronic cigarettes and a smoke-free campus.
These issues have been consistently debated in previous years.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, SGA has made substantial changes to the financial code, edits to the student handbook and regulations that concern ID cards when entering certain facilities.
“The main thing SGA is finance. We dole out funds to student organizations,” explains Robert Lyons, current sophomore class president.
“Looking at [this past year], we did a lot of financial code revisions, we looked for loopholes that we needed to close, we looked for gray areas that just needed to be defined. Since we’ve started my freshman year, it’s improved considerably,” Lyons said.
For junior Jose Iregui, his votes are based on a name-recognition basis. “If I see someone I know running, I’ll vote for them because I know who they are as a person,” he said.
However, Molly Monk, a current junior senator, denotes the “popularity contest” mentality and says it should be about the issues.
“We’ve been making sure there are different policies and helping students get the best experience possible,” Monk said. “It’s more than a popularity contest because we’re actually doing stuff that affects you, so you want to make sure the person you have speaking for you is a voice you trust.”
She added that student government has the ability to talk to administration and make an impact. Monk noted the creation of Dirlam Lounge as being a positive contribution to the Simpson community.
Student civic engagement, however, has been relatively low:
Sophomore Class: 87 out of 262 people voted (33.2%)
Junior Class: 75 out of 292 voted (25.7%)
Senior Class: 77 out of 330 voted (23.3%)
Sophomore Class:110 out of 386 voted (28.5%)
Junior Class: 97 out of 288 voted (33.7%)
Senior Class: 81 out of 240 voted (33.8%)
Sophomore Class: 191 out of 381 voted (50.1%)
Junior Class: 176 out of 361 voted (48.8%)
Senior Class: 88 out of 405 voted (21.7%)
First-year class senator, Nick Laning, said, “I think who represents you on SGA is very important because that person is your voice to the college administration and faculty. We are involved in every faculty and administrative committee and we make sure students are not taken advantage.”
He sharply points out, “This is a college, and the college wouldn’t be here without students.”
Fellow senator, Olivia Anderson, echoes those sentiments and adds, “Students really should care about what’s happening because the students that are elected to SGA are pretty much one of the main voices we have here on campus, whether they like to admit it or not.”
She argues that administration, faculty and staff cannot talk to every single student, so when problems come up, such as the budgetary cuts last fall, SGA voices concerns on how to move forward.
“Students should actually talk to members of SGA, know who they’re voting for, know what they stand for and not simply vote for who has the funniest poster,” Anderson said.
The demographic makeup of SGA, for example, proves to be a controversial talking point moving forward.
In an email, student body president, Ethan Fredrick wrote, “That discussion is important because as SGA is supposed to represent students, we have a big problem electing representatives that represent the student body. This election cycle doesn’t look to be any different from others in that the overwhelming majority of student representatives will be heterosexual white men. That can present a lot of problems when we make [valuable] decisions about what really matters for students.”
Fredrick plans on addressing diversity in greater depth within the coming year.
Voting closes Friday at noon. Check back for updates and results.