Student Life

Jaipuriar: SU students should recognize value of Student Association and vote

Student Association: By the students, for the students.

With Syracuse University’s SA elections this week, the campus will elect student body leadership for the 2016-17 school year. The two president and vice president pairs on the ballot are the Eric Evangelista-Joyce LaLonde ticket and Charlie Mastoloni and Jessica Brosofsky, respectively.

Election season — for any office — tends to call more attention to the job. And with this year’s SA election, all eyes are on the initiatives of the new candidates and the successes and failures of the current leadership. While there is a lot of buzz surrounding the association right now, more students should realize that SA does a lot more “behind the scenes” work than most would think throughout the entire year.

Even though it’s not always possible to see the impact of the changes made, SA fights to improve students’ day-to-day lives and campus infrastructure. Because the association is a force that drives real change on campus, students should do their part to vote and provide their input after informed candidate research — not just vote based on the names they hear the most.

It can be difficult to see the presence of SA as a real mover and shaker on campus because, especially during election season, it seems like high school student government 2.0: the ultimate popularity contest and resume booster. But one of the flashiest SA accomplishments and the best embodiment of student life this year was providing free transportation to the men’s and women’s Final Four basketball games. That was a key moment that demonstrated how SA deals with real-life, universal, student matters — not just bureaucratic initiatives and committees.

But looking past that cynical view of bureaucracy, SA’s work shows that the association can have a genuinely positive effect on campus affairs. In the past year, under SA President Aysha Seedat and Vice President Jane Hong, the association implemented heated lamps at bus stops, began the syllabi visibility project and laid significant groundwork for the proposed bike-sharing program.

So while the university community has seen demonstrations before, like the 2014 campus protests by THE General Body, SA acts as a formal channel to the administration for campus activism and gives more credibility to the undergraduate voice, so students don’t have to pull out their marching shoes and picket signs every time they need to protest.

Though there has been debate over whether SA is an association or a government, this issue should take less precedence than other problems on campus. Whatever it’s officially called, SA has to represent and defend the entire student body at SU — no easy task considering the wide range of issues currently on the table, including a student athletic fee, diversity, sexual assault and the extension of library hours.

No matter how big or small, students’ grievances and concerns can only be addressed if the student body actively and intelligently participates in voting. For example, when it comes to the  hot topic of on- and off-campus security, some have expressed hesitance to call SU’s Department of Public Safety for a ride home at night. But because students may feel not “unsafe” enough to warrant a ride, some have called for a “no questions asked” system that would ensure students are safe rather than sorry.

When proposals like this are a part of the campaigns presented, it becomes clear that students need to vote to get things done. And when voting at SU lacks party affiliation, this decision is made easier and more issue-centric. This factor helps voters focus solely on the candidates’ propositions. Rather than getting swayed by peers or the excessive “Vote for X” or “Vote for Y” messages in group chats, students should read about each candidate pair and their specific plans to make an informed vote.

As of Monday night, 11.5 percent of the student body had voted. In last year’s election, 24.1 percent of the entire student body has taken part in the election, but these low voter turnouts should encourage more people to cast their vote and elect a leadership that truly reflects the student body.

Thursday is the last day to vote. Be heard.

Rashika Jaipuriar is a freshman broadcast and digital journalism major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at rjaipuri@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @rashikajpr.

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