LETTER: Voting in SGA elections is an important opportunity to change K-State

Hayley Spellman, the SGA governmental relations committee chair, says voting in student elections is as important as voting in government relations. (Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

This letter to the editor was written by Hayley Spellman, student senator. If you would like to write a letter to the Collegian, send us an email at letters@kstatecollegian.com or visit kstatecollegian.com/contact.

It’s the same way we view American politics. Often, we avoid political debates, unfollow the social media of the heavily politically involved and tune out the advertisements we see online and on TV.

The biggest threat to our democracy? Ignoring it.

On a small scale (a very much smaller scale), the same concepts and dilemmas arise when we talk about Kansas State University’s Student Governing Association elections.

Take last year’s student body presidential election as an example — an election that all K-State students have the opportunity to vote for. Last year, less than 20 percent of students voted in the elections, with only 3,557 students voting for the next student body president.

For years, SGA has been considered a “friends club,” whose positions were occupied by the most popular members in Greek life. After last year’s election of student senators, I strongly believe it was the first step in challenging the status quo— the first step in having a student senate that truly represents our K-State student population.

In the current 2018-2019 term, we saw a massive shift in SGA’s approach in its method to recruit students to join the intern program.

During the 2017-2018 term, the intern program underwent a massive change in structure, including new ways to get students involved in SGA throughout the entire term. This year, being the first year these changes were implemented, over 110 students partook in the new program — up from the 35-member limit from previous years.

With the deadline to file for SGA’s general election now passed, there is now a new record of students who will begin campaigning in the next few days. Student senate consists of 60 student positions, a number that has been difficult to meet in years past.

This year, over 120 students filed to run for this year’s election. The most packed races? The College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and the College of Engineering.

The culture of SGA is changing, but it’s dependent on the student body to continue to push for change.

When SGA has control over $17 million student dollars every year, including $16 million from the privilege fee, it is up to the student body to decide on the student senator who will wholeheartedly represent their constituents’ priorities, concerns and motives. In years past, senators have been passively unengaged without consequence.

I challenge the student body to vote for representatives that will help drive change on campus, push for transparency of student resources and genuinely act on behalf of the students that voted them into office in the first place.

There are two major elections coming up — and coming up quickly. The election that is steadily upon us is the SGA primary election for the student body president candidates. Until Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 6 p.m., students have the opportunity to vote for one of two candidates or opt in for a write-in candidate.

The next, more important election is the SGA general election. This election will have all positions on the ballot, including student body president & vice president, student senators, college councils and the Union Governing Board. This election will be held from Tuesday, Feb. 26 at noon until Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.

The link to vote is at sgaelections.ksu.edu.

It’s time we think twice about not voting in SGA elections because we, as the student body, have more power than we often realize. Let’s start exercising our right to vote at K-State.

Hayley Spellman is a student senator, chair of the Governmental Relations Committee and a senior in political science and communication studies. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.