Student Government (SG) elections start Feb. 22, but many USF students probably don’t know that. Voter apathy is a perpetual problem at the University, and the election will likely see another dismal turnout this year.
The 2010 Student Body Elections event on Facebook only has about 650 confirmed guests. Perhaps more telling is the fact that more than 1,300 people indicated they will not attend the election.
SG has set the ambitious goal of getting 10,000 students to vote in this year’s election for student body president, vice president and senators. It set the same goal last year but the election only drew 3,236 voters. These numbers are terrible considering about 40,000 students are enrolled at the Tampa campus.
With less than 10 percent of students voting, it’s clear that something must be done to increase voter turnout. This responsibility falls squarely on SG and the Election Rules Commission (ERC), which “oversees the execution and logistics of all SG elections,” according to SG statutes.
SG did not do enough to promote the upcoming election or the presidential debates that have already taken place. Announcements were made on the SG Web site and Facebook page, which few students probably check.
It may surprise students who have seen little or no advertising for the election – aside from the sidewalk chalking by candidates – that the ERC set aside $5,000 for its advertising budget, Michael LeBlanc, supervisor of the ERC, said to The Oracle.
The bulk of the money was spent on two $1,600 payments for advertisements on the eDean LCD Screens at various locations on campus, according to the budget. This is arguably a waste of money because it is a very passive form of advertising that requires students to be watching the screens when the ads cycle through.
The ERC ran two ads in The Oracle for $338 and $127 as well.
It was a good idea to promote the elections on Facebook, but the SG presence on the social networking site is a bit of a mess. SG itself has a profile, rather than a group or fan page, under the name “Usf Sg.” It has nearly 2,000 friends – a small slice of the student body.
USF Student Body Elections, the Facebook group that advertised events for the election and debates, only has about 680 members. Students have to be members of the group or friends with SG to find out about the election on Facebook.
The presidential debates should have been held in high-traffic areas, such as MSC Amphitheatre, at times that would have drawn a large crowd. The first debate was held in the MSC on a Friday night, perhaps the worst time to expect students to show up – and only about 130 did.
The second debate was broadcast on Bulls Radio.
These debates were so poorly coordinated that some candidates did not know about tonight’s debate in Juniper-Poplar Residence Hall until three days ago.
Students need to take the elections more seriously. The candidate they choose for president will be in charge of allocating over $11 million in student-paid Activity and Services fees. However, it is the job of SG to keep students informed.
(Correction:the LCDadvertisements were not limited to MSC but were for various locations on campus. Advertising for screens at MSCis free.)