Students Going Blind Into SGA Elections

Gerard Albert III/PantherNOW

You may have noticed last week a bunch of people in campaign t-shirts and suits around the Graham Center pit trying to shake your hand. That means election season is here – not only for the federal government, but for the Student Government Association.

If you’re one of FIU’s thousands of commuter students who go to class and go straight to home or work, you may not know much about what SGA is or what they do, and you probably don’t care. But the student government handles a $20 million budget of activities and service fees that come out of students’ pockets. They can use that money to change things on campus.

The charging lockers in GC were funded by the student government, as well as the new microwaves in the College of Business. They also fund organizations like Veterans and Military Affairs, Black Student Union and Student Media, among others.

If you’ve been to a senate meeting at the Modesto Maidique Campus (which is held every Monday at 4 p.m. in GC 150), you get an idea of how much the SGA actually handles.

Elections are held every year at both MMC and the Biscayne Bay Campus. This year they’ll be held on Tuesday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 18 for the two student government councils and students will have the chance to vote for senators, president and vice president.

These dates, however, haven’t been posted on the elections Instagram page, the student affairs website or PantherConnect, so it’s hard for anyone outside SGA to know when they are. PantherNOW only obtained the dates after direct messaging the “fiuelections” page on Instagram. 

These are the people who will advocate for students to the University’s administration. If you’re a student in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, you’ll vote for CASE senators who will (hopefully) communicate your concerns and pass legislation to fund things on your behalf.

When students ignore elections and don’t vote, only a small portion of the population votes for who runs the government, and the perspectives in the senate and executive branch may not represent the breadth of FIU’s concerns.

The problem is that it’s hard for the average student to care about elections or get involved when SGA doesn’t advertise until the last minute. Historically the majority of the votes cast are from Greek organizations.

At the time of this writing, the complete ballot has not been released, and elections are a week away. According to the elections code, the list of candidates should be posted on the SGA website no less than seven days before elections. Even if they got it in right at the deadline, that’s hardly enough time to get the word out to all 50,000 plus students. 

Candidate registration was delayed for weeks because at BBC, almost no one signed up to run. Even after delays, they have only four candidates for senator and no one running for president. This is the latest in a history of problems with BBC’s waning engagement.

SGA members are always talking about how to get students more involved and how to connect more with their constituents, but if those constituents don’t even know who they are or when to vote for them… that’s not really starting off on the right foot.

Tatiana Arevalo, elections commissioner for SGC-MMC, told PantherNOW that the ballot has been delayed because they are changing to a new computerized system to manage elections, and the transition has been slow. 

There was hope after last year’s problematic elections that things would improve, but at least the previous elections board posted candidate information and polling locations online, something the current administration hasn’t done.

Those outdated candidate profiles and polling places, by the way? They’re still on the SGA website in the absence of any current information.

Arevalo has done a good job of updating the current senate about election dates and deadlines, and the fiuelections page has advertised debates and meet the candidate events, but the nitty gritty of elections has been absent.

SGA is important. Even if you never interact with a single senator, they make decisions that affect you as an FIU student. But the average voter may not get a chance to know their candidate before bubbling in their name on the ballot next week.

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