This year marked a three-year low in participation in the Student Government (SG) election.
Only 3,677 — about eight percent — of USF Tampa’s 43,866 students cast a vote. This is compared to 4,618 students voting in 2018 and 8,636 in 2017.
Frankly, this is disappointing.
USF’s student body must realize the impact these elections have on the student experience and, most importantly, how their hard-earned tuition dollars are spent.
SG is responsible for allocating the Activity & Service (A&S) fee — a fee that every single student must pay and it’s not exactly cheap.
The fee costs about $12 per-credit-hour and $7 per semester. This means that a student taking 15 credit hours in a particular semester would pay about $188 in total for this fee, which helps fund things like student organizations, Homecoming events, students’ daily free-printing allowance and the University Lecture Series, among many other events and services.
In total, SG is responsible for allocating the approximate $17 million that comes from this fee.
To reiterate, a group of mainly 20-somethings is in charge of how about $17 million of student fees is spent.
So why don’t non-SG students care enough to democratically vote in these elections?
Well, it’s complicated.
For starters, USF has a large number of commuter students, meaning they are less likely to be able to participate in A&S-funded events, go to Senate meetings or even care to be educated on the candidates.
Since Senate meetings are no longer live streamed, it is difficult for most students to stay involved. SG does attempt to keep students aware of recent developments through short videos on its social media but these processes can be hard to understand for the average student.
SG must drastically improve transparency, education and accessibility in order to truly have a democratic election process.
This year, there was an unopposed presidential and vice presidential ticket, possibly explaining the exceptionally low voter turnout. But this exemplifies another problem: Students seem to only care about that one race.
While the executive branch is, of course, important, the legislative branch is just as impactful.
Recently, the SG senators approved raises for student employees at Campus Recreation, approved additional money to improve this year’s Bull Stock — a music festival-like event free to students — and approved a 50-cent addition (an extra five black-and-white pages) to students’ daily free printing allowance.
In addition to these positive things, Senate is sometimes accused of making unfavorable choices with this money.
Examples include the attempt to use about $8,000 of A&S fees to fund a dinner, the attempted creation of a legally-questionable endowment which would have been used to invest a portion of the A&S fees collected and the slashing of 15 percent from A&S-funded departments like the Center for Student Involvement and Campus Recreation.
Students appear to only care about what SG is doing when it’s something they strongly disagree or agree with — or if parking is mentioned — yet only a small amount of students actually vote.
Since the A&S fee is basically the only fee that students have input in regarding how it’s spent, it would be wise to actually participate in SG elections.
SG is beholden to the student body. These elections are how student constituents can ensure that their voices are heard and their representatives are held accountable.
Students must realize that they hold the power.