Election demonstrates need for SA to self-examine
When petitions finished filing in and the candidates for Student Association executive positions were announced, the Thresher Editorial Board was disappointed to learn that out of five executive positions up for election, none were contested. In fact, no one is running for the secretary position, necessitating a special election process.
Earlier this semester, we had hopes that the SA election would be taken seriously. Those hopes have been squashed in the face of an underwhelming election.
Campus doesn’t seem to be disillusioned with student government even if what little interest the Rice community has in the SA is steadily fading. Several college governments had hotly contested elections this semester. In the case of the recent McMurtry presidential election, three candidates faced off, and just one vote decided the outcome — it’s easy to tell people their vote matters when one vote determines the outcome of an election. It’s harder for our editorial board, one of the staunchest supporters of voting in SA elections, to tell campus that voting is worthwhile when all major elections are uncontested.
Year after year, SA candidates and the Thresher alike bemoan a lack of external engagement, whether we are responding to low voter turnout or students knowing what the SA does or why, maybe, what they do matters. But, it seems the SA now faces a more daunting challenge: lack of internal engagement.
If the SA can’t rally troops within their own ranks to run for positions, how can we expect engagement from the student body? In order for the SA to be taken seriously, there has to be some degree of faith in what they do within the organization itself.
Can we claim to be surprised at this turn of events, though? As we near the end of a year-long term, only three resolutions have been passed. Two election directors resigned this year — the third time is hopefully the charm. At this week’s Senate, members of the current executive board simmered with clumsily concealed contempt for each other — can we count how many times presumptive president-elect Solomon Ni said, “I have the floor”?
Some weeks ago, one of the former election directors criticized the Thresher Editorial Board for allegedly undermining the SA. We wish that was the case. Instead, the SA undermines themselves with every action and inaction they take. Let us be clear, we believe the SA has immense potential to leverage their position on campus and connections to campus offices to truly benefit students.
That’s why we’re writing this. If we thought the SA was beyond hope, we wouldn’t waste our time with editorials. To the incoming executive board, let us offer our early congratulations and ask you to restore faith in the SA internally by passing resolutions that impact student life, recruiting and retaining committee heads and members, mentoring New Student Representatives and setting our college presidents and senators up for success.
It might be a long shot, but with stronger working relationships, maybe new members will stick around and run for positions. And, if they invest time in the SA and the SA invests time in them, there might be meaningful change for campus as a whole that encourages the student body to vote in (hopefully contested) SA elections in 2024.
On a campus where even Sex Weeks are competing and students are scrambling for resume filler, it seems ridiculous that the SA couldn’t muster up even five candidates willing to put up with a year of serving on their executive board. This isn’t backhanded. We’ll say it to your face: do better.
Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Ben Baker-Katz, Morgan Gage, Bonnie Zhao, Hajera Naveed, Nayeli Shad, Riya Misra, Michelle Gachelin, Daniel Schrager, Prayag Gordy and Brandon Chen.
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