Student elections, representation matter

David Engleman

On March 2 and 3, students across the 40 Acres have the opportunity to elect representatives to Student Government, the Graduate Student Assembly, Texas Student Media, the University Co-op and University Unions. Historically, turnout in campus-wide elections has been about as poor as turnout among university students in local, state and national elections. But unlike the election of a mayor, governor or president, the election of representatives in campus-wide elections can have an immediate, palpable impact on your life as a student.

It is easy to look at these five entities and wonder, “What do my student representatives do for me?” Sometimes, it may seem that the impact of a single event or initiative on the student body at large is quite small. But these events and initiatives are only a glimpse into the crucial role student representatives play as stewards of student opinion in the eyes of administrators, faculty and staff. In the course of approving a new building on campus or designing a new major, administrators may only have a handful of conversations with student representatives. These conversations are the moments in which student representatives can make a major impact on their peers.

At the end of the day, student representatives are who the student body relies upon to accurately communicate their wishes, values and needs to administrators, public officials and friends of the University. If less than 20 percent of the student body votes in campus-wide elections, student representatives cannot possibly represent more than that small fraction of students. Whether you are running for an elected position, supporting a campaign or simply voting, I encourage you to play an active role in selecting the next generation of student representatives.

In the course of the campaign period, tensions can run high. Competition should bring out the best in all of us, but in the course of campaigning, both unintentional and intentional violations of the rules occur. Nevertheless, I implore everyone playing a role in campus-wide elections to conduct themselves with the highest standards of integrity. Faith in these institutions cannot be taken for granted, and each entity is only as strong as its election process. The Election Supervisory Board exists to provide clarity on the election codes, and we serve students by investigating complaints regarding election code violations.

Be interested, get involved and on March 2 and 3, remember to vote. You have a voice, and it matters — let yourself be heard.

Campus-wide elections take place online at utexasvote.org from 8 a.m. on March 2 to 5 p.m. on March 3.

Engleman is a Plan II and English senior  from Austin. He is the chair of the 2016 Election Supervisory Board. Follow Engleman on Twitter @DREngleman.