The student government election is over and, while the election cycle winds down and complaints are being heard, we do know how many IU students voted in the election.
Out of almost 40,000 eligible students, only about 6,000 voted. Total turnout rated only 12 percent of the student body.
To put it another way, barely one out of 10 students took the time to have a voice in the election of their student government.
The IU Student Association, our student government, has the potential to be a place where students come together. IUSA should be a forum trusted and respected as an equal place for students to voice their concerns and, after weighing the options, taking action on campus problems. IUSA receives eight-percent of our student fee money, so it has a responsibility to help the students it represents.
IUSA still has a way to go before it becomes such a forum. IUSA has faced challenges in activity levels, student involvement and elections surrounded by controversy. Rather than assigning blame, the Editorial Board hopes to offer several concrete actions that could be taken toward our common goal — building a better student government.
Indiana’s largest public university should demand a student government it can be proud of.
To do that, our elections need to represent a broader portion of the University’s student body.
More buy-in from students, and a broader debate over the role of IUSA in student life, can do nothing but benefit us and the next generation of students for whom we leave a legacy.
There is no silver bullet to boosting turnout, but there are several common sense steps we can take to increase student participation in elections.
First, many tickets, including the preliminary victor Empower IU, proposed a student government that reaches out to student organizations, rather than waiting for students and student groups to come to them with problems.
Administration after administration of the IUSA has promised a more active and involved student government, and we hope Empower IU or the eventual victor lives up to its promises.
An IUSA that actively let students know the resources that were available to them, the change that an active student government can effect and simple knowledge that IU has a student government would lead to increased participation and turnout.
Second, despite past attempts at election code reform, there needs to be a further re-examination of the IUSA election code. Tickets spend more time worrying about violations and trying to get votes deducted from other tickets than they do trying to get votes for themselves.
Perversely, our stringent election code that was passed and intended to allow students of all backgrounds to participate in IUSA has led to lower turnout and incentives for tickets to campaign less for fear of losing votes.
Any new election code should seriously consider dropping the “vote deduction” penalty as an undemocratic punishment for tickets and should create incentives for tickets to do more outreach, not less.
Finally, as students and citizens we need to look at ourselves and ask why only 12 percent of us feel IUSA is worth the time to vote for. An unengaged and apathetic student body leads to a less fulfilling campus life and a poorer legacy for the next generation of Hoosiers. It’s time for all of us, not just the 12 percent, to start taking responsibility for our campus.
Opinion Editor Zack Chambers is involved on an IUSA ticket and had no input on the Editorial.