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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Columns

Staff Editorial: Voting for SGA leaders is important


Democracy cannot survive without active input from the people. | Trey Strange/The Cougar

For a student body which, by and large, believes its student government doesn’t do enough, far too few students are actually voting on who represents them.

In spring 2016, just under 43,000 students at the University of Houston had the opportunity to vote in the election for the Student Government Association. Of that 43,000, just over 10 percent exercised that right.

It only takes a simple majority to elect an SGA president (including during the runoff).

Meaning that in 2016, just over 2,000 students elected the most powerful student representative at Texas’ third largest public university.

Not only do members of SGA have the ability to appoint and confirm students to the Student Fees Advisory Committee, which directs nearly $23 million, in addition to other committees which oversee aspects of nearly every area of the University. Some of them are paid, via student fees, to do it.

Members of the executive board make anywhere from $5,500 to $9,600 during their tenure in office.
While it may not be as impactful as other levels of government, UH’s student government is a democracy — intended to operate by the students and for the students. In order for a democracy to operate effectively, the people are responsible for performing their most important civic duty: voting.

If SGA isn’t effective enough for students, it could be because there is a lack of student participation.

If we want to complain about how our student leaders don’t represent us, we must first do everything in our power to ensure that they do represent us. In a constituency where only 10 percent of eligible individuals vote, it is unreasonable to expect that persons outside of that minority will feel represented by SGA.

Democracy cannot survive without active input from the people — more than the voting 10 percent of the people, that is.

While the current administration, under President Shane Smith, will be coming to an end in less than six weeks, students still have an opportunity to voice their opinion before the year is out. The election for the 54th Administration will begin on Feb. 28.

Whether they want better parking, affordable textbooks or more easily accessible student leaders, students have an important choice to make.

More than 80 candidates are running under four parties and as independents, vying for positions ranging from school senator to the president of SGA.

It is easy to forget about senators during election season, but these representatives, especially at UH, hold more power than you might think.

Senators in the current administration authored legislation to create a mentorship program in the College of the Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, served on committees advocating for better on-campus dining and advocated for a fixed tuition program in the School of Architecture.

The Cougar will be compiling a database of senatorial candidates, including their major, their classification and their platform, making the decision even easier than in the past.

It’s hard to think of an acceptable excuse not to vote when the election will be held through Get Involved on AccessUH, and students can cast their ballots from the comfort of wherever they choose, as long as it has Wi-Fi. If that isn’t enough to ensure the election is easily accessible, voting will be held over the course of three days.

That’s right: Students can devote five minutes of their time, sometime between midnight on Feb. 28 and noon on March 2, in order to play their part in this year’s election.

It’s a lot easier to set aside five minutes of your time, to login to Get Involved instead of checking social media just once, than it is to suffer through an entire year of what you believe to be a useless governing body.

Regardless of if you vote, you are paying these students to represent you. It only makes sense to ensure they’re people you feel are qualified.

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