The SGA is looking to find ways to increase engagement with the student body. Photo by Alex McKenzie.
Following one of the lowest turnout rates for Student Government Association candidates during last year’s SGA election, the current President and Vice President are preparing to make changes to prevent a similar turnout for next year’s SGA election.
One of the chief concerns of the SGA this semester is increasing engagement between the SGA and the student body of UMBC. The last SGA election saw low voter turnout, partially due to a small number of actual candidates. Most of the positions that were voted on during the 2018 SGA elections saw little competition. The President and Executive Vice President ran unopposed, the SGA Finance Board had six candidates running for the five available positions, and the SGA Senate had twelve candidates running for 11 available positions.
To help solve this issue with engagement, Executive Vice President and junior science and mathematics dual major Vrinda Deshpande believes that having students talking to the SGA would help. “Even though there was super low turnout, we are representatives of the student voice,” she says.
In order to help prevent another election with few candidates, the SGA is working on different solutions. SGA President and senior information systems and economics major Collin Sullivan believes that solving this problem is “not something we can do right now. It’s something that we’re going to have to build up over time. We have until spring semester, so what we’re trying to do during fall is look at how can we have programs that will help with sustainability of the organization.”
Sullivan recognizes the SGA’s issue with student engagement. “For a long time, the expectation is [sic], ‘Why haven’t people come talk to us in the SGA office?’ Well, our office is up in the student [organization] space. This is not the easiest place to get to if you don’t know where the student [organization] space is, or if you don’t ever come up to the second or third floor of the Commons, then this isn’t easy access to you. That part’s on us, we could be doing a better job of going out and our plan is to do that.”
Sullivan’s advice to anyone who is thinking about running for an SGA position is to “do it. Even if the thought ‘I don’t know if I should’ is coming in to play, you probably should. There’s low risk. I ran for president last year and lost – and I’m not going to lie, it did suck – but I had the greatest year and this experience now has been so rewarding that it was worth it … I think that we have a really bad notion in our democracy that if you lose an election, then you go away. I don’t think that’s how we should be looking at it. I think your involvement is in a different capacity. You can think about what you want to do and what you really care about, but having a fancy title or a fancy position shouldn’t determine whether or not you are engagement-worthy in the community.”