Opinion: Low SGA voter turnout is no accident

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast Wednesday, UNT SGA announced the election of a new student body president. There’s a good chance this is news to you — I didn’t even know his name until after he won, and I’m pretty sure I voted for him. His name is Troy Elliott, he’s a sophomore studying music and even now I’m not entirely sure what he looks like.

The depressing reason for my ignorance on this subject — and possibly yours, unless you happen to actually be a sitting member of SGA — is because only 6 percent of the student body even bothered to vote in the election. That comes out to 1,928 people, which, if I’m crunching these numbers correctly, is roughly half the number of students standing in line at the Kerr Hall cafeteria at any given time. This belt-busting 6 percent turnout rate is down from 8 percent last year and 10 percent the year before that. Again, I’m no mathematician, but there’s some kind of pattern to these numbers.

Look, there’s absolutely nothing sexy about student government — after all, it imitates the actual government. But at a school like UNT, where our administration is pushing harder than ever to bring the institution’s reputation up to fighting weight, it’s pitiful to see the student body rendered voiceless by an SGA senate that appears mostly occupied with either skipping its own meetings or bickering over who should be impeached the most. No matter what SGA has actually accomplished this semester, I’m probably never going to know, because they haven’t bothered to tell anyone.

The really upsetting part is that SGA wields a decent amount of power, something like $106,000 worth of student service fees each year. If I’m not mistaken, once a hefty cut of that cash flowed into executive board member salaries, the rest was spent this year on simulating a “Scared Straight”-style drunk driving accident on campus, complete with blood-soaked crash test dummies and a cameo appearance from a police helicopter. You know, like the kind they did in high school to stop you from drinking on prom night. If this demonstration saved a single life, its expense is justified — but I have my doubts.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though — new SGA president-elect Troy Elliott seems to share my concerns. His campaign platform focused on quick resolution of internal improvements to SGA, so student issues would take the stage as quickly as possible. He also stumped on improving communication between students and the UNT administration, along with improved cooperation between SGA and media outlets so students can actually vote for something and know why they did it.

Sure, campaign promises are cheap, but I’m not giving up just yet. If Elliott can enact even a few of these changes as president, we’ll be moving in the right direction. Just keep your fingers crossed that he’ll get something done before someone tries to impeach him.

James Rambin is an English junior. He can be reached at JamesRambin@my.unt.edu

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