By 1:26 p.m. Wednesday evening, a meager 8.4 percent of the student population had cast their ballots during the ASI elections.
With the election closed, it appears that after a lengthy campaign and record-setting voter turnout for the USU Referendum, students just aren’t feeling the ASI elections.
That was certainly the case during last week’s three scheduled campaign events. Less than 1 percent of California State University, Long Beach students attended either of the Meet and Greet the Candidates events.
The Executive Debates hosted by the Daily 49er didn’t fare much better.
But what is it that causes students to be so “turned off” to the whole student government elections process?
I have spent the past couple of weeks searching the archives of the Daily 49er online for student opinions of the ASI and its elections over the past 15 years.
While a number of opinions supported student government and its mission, the majority referred to ASI as being corrupt and overpaid money-grubbing crooks who don’t care about the plight of their constituency and who are out of touch.
Interestingly enough, these were some of the same types of comments and opinions I often heard in conversations concerning the USU Referendum and vote.
But let us take a moment to look at the USU Referendum in a different light in the hopes that students might come to see sharing their voice through voting in an alternative way.
According to California State University Fee Policy Executive Order 1054, the University Student Union Fee is considered a Category II fee. Under Executive Order 1054 the CSU Chancellor “is delegated authority for the establishment, oversight and adjustment of Category II fees.”
Additionally, University President Jane Close-Conoley “is delegated authority for the oversight and adjustment of Category II fees.”
The policy presumes that a student fee referendum will be conducted before adjusting or establishing Category II fees. The president, however, may waive the referendum requirement — unless it is required by education code — if he or she determines that a referendum is not the best mechanism to achieve appropriate and meaningful consultation.
The president can adjust Category II fees.
The Student Fee Advisory Committee, the majority of which are students, “consider proposals and make a recommendation to the president” under Executive Order 1054 as well.
A vote wasn’t necessarily required, but it was the right thing to do.
Over the last decade, students have been subjected to unprecedented tuition and fee increases, and a single student trustee on the CSU Board of Trustees, rather than all students campus-wide, voted most of these fees in.
The USU Referendum vote took power and placed it right in the palm of students’ hands, and this is exactly what everyone from Chancellor White, to the University President, ASI, and the USU Board of Trustees felt the students deserved because they knew they were asking for a huge commitment.
I think this important point was lost on so many during the campaign. At least we were getting to vote.
Your voice and your vote were heard in record numbers. This is when student government works best –
When students speak their minds.
As a student government leader, it lets me know just how many students feel a certain way about an issue, and it makes my job easier by allowing me to fine-tune the direction my constituency believes I should be going.
In this case the numbers say a lot. Not only no, but “hell no!” The 67 percent of students who voted against the referendum also lets student leaders know that those numbers aren’t likely to change in the near future.
So, we must streamline our budgets and find alternative methods to fund the repairs on the USU without increasing fees.
The vote also generated 40 pages of student feedback that will be invaluable in moving forward.
Most important of all, the voter turnout helped those of us on the Student Fee Advisory Committee to recommend to the president that the student vote be upheld and that no adjustment be considered.
Students should always have a say in their money, and their government respected that.
I guess that is how I wish others could see it — as a good thing.
Student government works best when students vote, and I hope you all at least consider looking at it as an empowering opportunity and not just the same old thing.
After all, look what you did with the referendum.
Believe it or not, all of these candidates care and want to make a difference, even though many of you will never know their names.