This past week, students at the University of Connecticut had the opportunity to cast their vote in campus-wide elections. Not only did the ballot include candidates for president and vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government along with USG senatorial races, but also for undergraduate and graduate student representatives on the Board of Trustees. Additionally, referenda on the newly proposed USG constitution and current student fees for SUBOG, UConnPIRG and The Daily Campus, as well as a potential increase for Nutmeg Publishing were included on the ballot.
Online voting began at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, and was extended an additional few hours until 8 p.m. on Friday. Student voter turnout was historically low. According to a breakdown of the results by The Daily Campus, this election was the first time in seven years that there were less than 3,000 votes in a contested presidential race. 2,706 votes were cast in the three-way race; with a current undergraduate population of 23,407, this comes out to roughly 11.6 percent of students voting. This is down from 3,140 in a contested 2014 presidential election, which in itself is below the 3,426 votes cast in the contested 2013 race.
This low turnout is despite concerted efforts at outreach and advertising by USG itself, candidates and organizations involved, which may indicate an apathetic student body. Students need to recognize the importance of many of the student positions up for grabs, and take the time to acquaint themselves with the candidates and ultimately to vote. For example, USG is responsible for dispersing a large amount of students’ money. According to a report by The Daily Campus, as of this past September, there was a total of $800,000 in funding available to student organizations through USG’s funding process. USG’s incoming revenue was projected to surpass the massive $1.2 million target. With such large financial responsibility, students must stay up to date and vote in order to ultimately hold USG accountable. Additionally, USG is in charge of other important issues and student advocacy, such as helping shape sexual assault policy on campus and testifying in the state capitol about higher education budget cuts.
The two student representative positions, one undergraduate and one graduate, on the Board of Trustees are also of great importance; this is especially given Governor Malloy’s veto of a bill this past July that would have created two new student positions on the board. The Board of Trustees is chiefly responsible for approving the university’s budget for each fiscal year and raises in tuition. With impending budget cuts and potential for additional tuition increases, having a Board of Trustees representative, as well as a collective student body backing that representative, is vital.
It is no secret that students are concerned about the way their fees are being spent and how tuition continues to rise. While voting may not have had the desired turnout, students should learn about their newly elected representatives and work with them to ensure their voices are heard by the university.