Democracy remains an issue in the Undergraduate Student Government

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Since the resignation of Joshua Crow and Alexandra Ose in order to make room for marginalized groups within the Undergraduate Student Government, diversity has been a topic of discussions. After this past election, there is still some confliction regarding democracy and if the entire population was counted within the election. Photo by Eric Wang/The Daily Campus.

At the University of Connecticut, the Undergraduate Student Government’s recent special election has named president Michael Hernández and Vice President Guilmar Valle.  

Amid election complaints aimed at both campaigns and candidate links to sexual assault allegations, another significant cause for concern is voter turnout. Hernández and Valle were elected to the executive branch with 340 votes while Jase Valle and Guymara Manigat earned 290 votes. UConn’s fact sheet lists the Storrs main campus as having 18,847 undergraduate students in the 2020-2021 academic year.  

Last spring, USG’s regular scheduled presidential election saw Joshua Crow and Alexandra Ose win the presidency and vice presidency with 1254 votes against Jase Valle’s and Guymara Manigat’s 964 votes. While both recent elections have taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is evident that the longer it persists, the more difficult it becomes to encourage participation in UConn’s student elections.  

“While both recent elections have taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is evident that the longer it persists, the more difficult it becomes to encourage participation in UConn’s student elections.”

Both candidates in our recent election predicted turnout issues in their interviews with The Daily Campus. Valle expressed the need for USG to reach out to students, possibly through email, to inform them of the election. Hernández suggested developing a much stronger social media presence and, going forward, orienting focus within USG away from leaders and towards community participation.  

We should remember that the reason for our special election this fall is that Crow and Ose resigned over the summer in order to make room for marginalized student voices within leadership. Furthermore, these resignations came in the wake of one of the town halls the organization hosted in order to address internal racism, including accusations of poor diversity and a lack of representation.  

When only a tiny fraction of UConn’s undergraduates elect our President and Vice President, it becomes unclear how well the Undergraduate Student Government can advocate for the entire student body and all the different people in this population, particularly students from marginalized groups. Likewise, if only a small group of students, likely those directly or indirectly linked with the student government, elect leadership, this reinforces conceptions of the organization being focused on resume building and politics as opposed to representation and advocacy.  

“When only a tiny fraction of UConn’s undergraduates elect our President and Vice President, it becomes unclear how well the Undergraduate Student Government can advocate for the entire student body and all the different people in this population, particularly students from marginalized groups.”

If USG wants to become an accurately representative organization, they should do everything possible to educate the student body about how the organization operates and how students can become more involved with one of the best-funded student advocacy groups on campus. Ultimately, the Undergraduate Student Government must encourage voter turnouts which, if they do not include the entire student body, at least resemble turnouts at the local, state and national levels.

Note: This article was edited at 2:07 p.m. on Oct. 14 to fix the spelling of candidates’ names and to fix a factual inaccuracy.

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