Campaigns are kicking off for the Student Governing Association elections, with voting held Feb. 22-23. The election process has changed this year, making the election more accessible for students.
Maggie Billman, junior in education and chief of staff of SGA, said that SGA implemented a new system of instant run-off voting this year rather than having a primary election and then a general election.
“There are three campaigns that I know of that have announced they are running this year so far, so those will all be voted on and your senators, college boards, collegial positions and union board positions,” Billman said. “That will all be one big ballot, and I think that will help students learn a little bit more about how our elections work.”
During the voting time, a reminder will pop up on students’ Canvas pages, allowing them to vote from their dashboard.
“I think that is a helpful tool because the most important thing is the number of students [voting],” Billman said. “How are we supposed to represent students if we are only representing a small percentage of students by the person who is elected?”
Voting turnout for SGA elections at K-State is historically low, with a little over 2,000 students voting this past year out of a campus of over 16,000 students. Even with more accessibility, there are still students that have little to no knowledge of the upcoming SGA elections.
Jazsmin Halliburton, first-year graduate student in journalism and mass communications, said she had no idea that SGA elections were going on.
“It has been difficult because we all have not been on campus as much for about two years now, so if there is anything on campus, I usually just don’t see it,” Halliburton said.
Ella Bahr, senior in life sciences, said she has been involved in the SGA campaigns throughout her college experience because the people around her — whether in organizations she is a part of or in her sorority — have been invested in it.
“One thing I have noticed in the past is that a lot of students in greek life are super invested, but students outside don’t always know or don’t hear about it,” Bahr said. “Finding some way to reach a lot of different organizations on campus, whether it’s making sure that they go and promote their campaign at different organizations meeting each week, or sending emails to students that aren’t just in greek life. Making sure everyone is involved and everyone’s voice is heard is so important.”
Tatiana Lesme, junior in marketing, agreed with Bahr and said it has been difficult to even find out about SGA elections as an international student.
“One way I believe that campaigns could reach international students and other students that are not in greek life is by hosting events that include everyone,” said Lesme.
Lesme said she would like easier access to how the university works and more guidance on where to go for certain services, activities and events. She is also interested in running for SGA but does not know much about it.
“I would like to be able to run sometime [for a position in SGA], and even though I am not in greek life, I do know a lot of people,” Lesme said. “I have goals and values I would like to implement and share. I sadly do not even know how to get there. I do not know many things about the university. That information is sort of hidden from us and hard for us to find out about.”
Billman said her advice to students is to check out the different social media campaigns, familiarize themselves with their platforms and vote for the person whose platform sticks out to them. Billman said that the SGA president has a lot of power and influence.
“We [elected SGA officials] have monthly meetings with the university president,” Billman said. “We will be meeting with our new president, Linton, on Feb. 28. Our student body president, Michael Dowd, represents us to the Kansas Board of Regents, and he was on the selection committee to find our new university president. He has a lot of power and influence at the state level as far as working with the regents and understanding how curriculum and budgets work.”
Billman added that the SGA president has many other responsibilities, including chairing the intercultural leadership council — composed of students from multicultural students organizations — to hear different campus voices and work on projects with them.
Just as students who are not involved or don’t know much about SGA want to learn more about them, students in SGA wish to connect more with other students.
“I want students to know that SGA is a group of people that really care about students,” Billman said. “Any student, any time, is welcome to come to one of our meetings. If you need a friend to sit by in a senate meeting, come find me. Any student enrolled in one credit hour is technically a part of the student governing association, and as such, you have rights in our chambers. Whatever issue you are passionate about and want to bring forward, come to our offices, come to our meetings, send us an email: we genuinely want to serve students and include multiple voices and all sorts of perspectives in our meetings.”
SGA holds student senate meetings at 7 p.m. on Thursdays at Wildcat Chambers located in the K-State Student Union.