The Student Association presidential debate, initially scheduled for Monday, is instead being held today, Wednesday, Feb. 11 in the Kyle Morrow room in Fondren Library at 8 p.m. in place of the SA senate meeting. The SA initially planned to host the SA presidential debate on Monday, before elections began. However, according to SA President Ravi Sheth, the debate was moved to Wednesday to increase the event’s turnout.
Additionally, the SA did not release official information for all general election candidates until Monday, less than 24 hours before the ballot opened. Director of Elections Austin Cao said the registrar’s new requirement that all candidates must release information indicating good academic standing forced the SA to delay releasing candidate information.
While the Thresher understands exigent circumstances forced the SA to make changes to the elections timeline, these changes have negatively impacted the student body’s knowledge of the candidates and issues. By creating such a large window of time between the start of elections and the debate, framed in an already short voting period, the SA effectively ensures uninformed voting.
Moreover, the idea that delaying the debate will increase turnout to the event is flawed. Sheth’s decision to hold the debate during the scheduled Senate meeting time because those who would typically attend the former will be available for the latter only guarantees that Senate members will be present. Considering Senate members are typically at the forefront of Rice leadership, it is reasonable to expect these individuals to make time to attend the debate regardless of its scheduling. The debate should be scheduled at a time that is most convenient for the entire student body as opposed to a time that appeals to a niche group already engaged in student government.
Consistently low voter turnout plagues the SA general elections. Increasing turnout is a responsibility that currently falls upon candidates themselves; however, candidates have their own interests in mind, and although they may contribute towards increasing turnout, they are more focused on becoming elected than sustaining a positive culture surrounding voting. We have long treated low turnout as an inherent problem without a solution, but the truth is that the SA has not yet attempted a solution.
Evidently, elections deserve greater attention from SA leadership. For the sake of its own future, the SA must expand the role of the elections committee to include ensuring a smooth elections timeline and instilling students with a strong sense of civic duty.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.