The results from the A.S. elections that took place Oct. 25 and 26 are disheartening. It seems that close to 600 students care enough about what goes on at CSUN in order to vote in the A.S. elections. That, coupled with the chronically unfilled positions in the A.S. Senate itself, displays an unfortunate lack of enthusiasm for student life here at CSUN.
The easiest way to gauge student involvement is to look at how many people voted. Among undergraduate students, the total number of votes cast for both lower and upper division senate seats was 573. For the graduate division senate seat, only 14 votes were cast.
Total votes cast for all the individual academic college seats was 446. Total votes cast for each referendum was 424.
The results suggest that the competitive races generated more votes than noncompetitive ones. This can be seen by looking at the total votes for the College of Science and Math seat, which was the only contested senate seat among the colleges. Two candidates, Bina Pai and Nadia Souri were competing for the seat. Pai received 40 votes and Souri received 53, with one abstention. This added up to a total of 94 votes, the highest among the colleges.
Seats that did not have a candidate running for them received the lowest number of votes. Only 15 students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science showed up to vote, with the abstentions numbering more than the write-in votes. The same situation occurred for both the College of Education seat (1 write-in, 5 abstentions) and the graduate division senate seat (3 write-in, 11 abstentions.
Indeed, abstentions made up a disproportionate number of the votes cast. For the lower division senate seat, abstentions made up 4.8 percent of the vote and upper division abstentions were 6.1 percent of the vote. Among the academic college seats, abstention rates regularly exceeded 10 percent of total votes cast.
Abstentions were not offered for the referendum, but by comparing the combined number of lower, upper, and graduate division votes to the number of votes cast for the referendum, we can get a rough idea. Since those who voted for the senate seats were also eligible to vote for the referendum, then the number of people who abstained from voting for the referendum was 163, or 28 percent of the total vote assuming that everyone who voted for the referendums also voted for a senator.
What do all these numbers tell us? First, that only a tiny fraction of the student body voted. The 587 people who voted for the undergraduate and graduate senate seats made up little more than 2 percent of the 25,000 member student body. This means that only a small group of people are determining how A.S. is run. It’s impossible for A.S. to adequately represent the students’ interests when so few students make their voices heard.
We can draw another lesson from these numbers. Competitive seats generate student interest in an election. If we can convince more people to run for A.S. senate seats, then there is a chance that the buzz surrounding competitive races (and the politicking that it engenders) will spark student interest in the elections. The abstention rate among those who bothered to vote shows that we can easily lose the interest of even that group if we don’t get serious about making elections competitive.
Luckily, the current A.S. administration of Chad Charton and Associates seems to be taking this problem seriously. They have made school pride a top priority since the beginning of the semester and have recently begun to focus on the problem of lack of involvement in A.S. More work needs to be done in both those areas if we want to see more student involvement at CSUN.
Sean Paroski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.