We should really start paying more attention to student government
By Noah Kotlarek
Last Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2019, I had the honor of being the guest of Senator-hopeful Rich Shrestha and current-Senator Matthew Heutel to Fordham University’s 2019 Student Government “Meet the Candidates” Event in the McGinley Ballroom. Here students vying to be vice presidents of committees and representatives of their respective classes came to persuade us that they would be the best fit for their desired positions. I took the opportunity to do some investigate journalism for the paper.
Though the speeches were polished and the candidates were well dressed, there were a few issues with the event. First, a significant portion of the candidates were absent, second, many of the candidates including the President of USG were running uncontested, and audience attendance was lackluster. Each pointed to a deeper concern regarding the student government. Gone was the hype and excitement of high school student council speeches and debate. What a shame.
About seven of the speeches had to be delivered by the moderator since the candidates were absent, making me question how good their attendance in to student council events would be. If they are unable to attend this critical event, which is about them, what will motivate them to attend the “smaller” events designed not for themselves but for the students. Admittedly, though, many of the sophomore Gabelli candidates were studying at the London Campus, giving them some pass. But for the others, where were they and how can we expect them to serve the people. Surely Austin Tong would have been in attendance! Reilly Keane, Vice-Presidential candidate for Gabelli, at least appeared on a television screen to address the audience view Skype. This effort to connect is honorable. The one good thing about this plague of absence is that it makes deciding on who to vote for much easier.
Surprisingly to me, four of the seven vice-presidential candidates are running uncontested and the VP of Sustainability position is only being fought for by write-in candidates. This is concerning, there is a plethora of students running to be senator but why do so few desire to be vice-presidents? Is it too much work, were the students who had previously served as senators discouraged by the work, do they see their contributions to the student government too insignificant to wish to continue in the higher position of vice-president? I hope not.
Even more surprisingly to me is the fact that the executive ticket, consisting of Kaylee Wong and Ashley Qamar, is running uncontested. No other student wants to be the President of Fordham University’s student government. Shouldn’t every senator and student council member dream of being the president of the school, or at least shouldn’t more than just one? I’m not saying Wong and Qamar are unqualified for the job or that the students have been deprived from a truly free choice to select their leader, but the fact that only one ticket decided to run for the highest position says something about the Student Government.
However, a United Student Government insider, informed me that some of the people who were considering running decided not to because they felt Wong and Qamar were the only ones who deserved to win the executive election. This may be for the best, since, according to my source, the best leader has been hand selected by the people who work closest to her in student government. But, in principle it seems that more people should have run. This would have increased school spirit and awareness of United Student Government. Which leads perfectly into the next issue: student attendance.
It seems the only people in attendance at the meet-the-candidates events were the candidates and the three guests that they were asked by USG to bring to the event. This is unfortunate. Perhaps, if there had been more candidates and more exciting campaigns on campus, students would be more inclined to attend and would certainly lead to great awareness of the student government and its functions. Throughout the speeches this lack of awareness was a common theme yet many candidates failed to attend the event themselves. First the USG members must show that they care, which I’m sure that they do care, before they can expect the student body to care. I hope and am optimistic that the incoming senators, vice-presidents, and executive president and vice-president will address this.
But in order to improve the condition and involvement in USG, the constituents, us, must too take action. Unfortunately, students love to complain, but don’t care enough to run nor attend (then again, that’s just what I’m doing, kind of). We like what is easy, but must strive to do better. From there, we can bring real to the school.