Elections have begun for student senate, but there is just one problem—voter awareness has begun to drop.
Last spring in the presidential elections, the University of Central Florida faced its lowest voter turnout in nearly a decade with a 48 percent drop in students casting their ballots at the polls. Despite the low voter turnout of recent years, some candidates are still campaigning loud and strong to represent UCF students, regardless if they are aware of it or not.
Incoming candidate and political science senior Darrel Thompson is one of the newcomers this fall that is campaigning for a seat in the College of Sciences.
“I just want to get involved and help serve the people across campus,” Thompson said. “The services of SGA align well with what I’m trying to do in the future, which is basically to help people out at the end of the day.”
Thompson is one of the 13 candidates running for one of ten seats in the College of Sciences. Thompson’s campaign is backed by experience in leadership roles such campaign fellowship in the United States presidential election and service as a resident assistant in Nike.
Thompson’s platform calls for student-assisting policies like the forestalling of tuition increases, the expansion of scholarships offered by SGA, and lobbying to decrease the excess credit hour surcharge. Among those positions, Thompson alludes to transparency as a key marker of what his campaign believes in.
The idea of transparency in the Student Government Association is warranted on detailed record keeping on all decisions by SGA and the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees has the final say-so in creating school policy.
“Every attempt should be made to make SGA as transparent as possible;” Thompson said. “SGA’s main function is to serve students and all information should be there and be accessible to students.”
Christina Henry, who is running for a seat in the College of Health & Public Affairs, elaborates on the importance of transparency when addressing incoming UCF voters.
“Students should vote for a candidate who is transparent and allows for easy access to SGA and SGA records,” Henry said.
With the idea of having a fair student body still in mind, students such as Henry carry the change of diversity with them. As president of the National Black Law Association she understands the importance of representation for multi-cultural groups.
“I hear a lot of different comments and needs from individuals that I definitely want to fulfill, especially as far as diversity within our senate,” Henry said. “A lot of the time the more multi-cultural organizations get left to the back-burner.”
Student Body Senate member Nickolas Richardson, who currently sits in seat number 3 in the College of Arts and Humanities, points to creative diversity as the main reason he joined SGA.
“After I transferred to this school, my favorite club, Anime Spot, noticed that they had nobody representing them,” Richardson said. “Anime Spot is something that I hold dear to my heart and so I told them ‘I’m running for you guys and I’ll be glad to represent you’ and it started from there.
Richardson said that even the smallest of groups and interests should be explored and given a fair chance.
“It’s something that I want to bring into SGA and actually branch out more to students so that everybody has a place here,” Richardson said.
With elections already beginning, students have the ability to make a change for what they believe in through candidates that are chosen but for some, they may not even know what SGA stands for.
“A lot of people just want something to put on their resume but when we sit there in senate and go over any campus problems that we’re having or help allocate funds for these organizations, it really does feel good knowing that you’re helping their dreams get closer,” said Hilda Teresa Piñate, legal studies junior currently up for re-election in the number 4 senate seat for HPA.
“The biggest obstacle has been making UCF aware of what SGA is,” Piñate said. “It really is hard when you are running for a position where people really don’t know that the position exists or what that position consists of”.
The UCF SGA Senate elections began Monday and run until Wednesday. The ballot stations open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Student Union patio.
The Student Body Senate also meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Key West ballroom and opens its doors to any student curious to see the legislative process in action. If necessary, run-off elections begin Oct. 3rd and end Oct. 5th.
Story originally published Sept. 28, 2016.