Despite an unusually high voter turnout, students lack engagement in the ASLC Senate elections this school year
By PETER KRANITZ
Twenty-three students were elected on Sept. 24 to the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) Senate in an election that was, according to ASLC Director of Elections Adrian Austin-King, ’16, “a success and a failure.”
For Austin-King, the success and failure of the election both stem from student engagement. The elections succeeded primarily because of the voter turnout rate.
“We had over a 30% voter turnout rate, which is very good based on Lewis & Clark’s historical apathy in terms of elections,” Austin-King said.
This exceeds Austin-King’s goal of 25 percent. Despite exceeding Austin- King’s goal, a Senate seat for the junior class remains empty, necessitating a special election to fill the seat. Earlier in the election cycle, Austin-King extended the application deadline due to a shortage of sophomore, junior, and senior candidates. The lack of applicants was neither atypical nor entirely unexpected.
“I strategically set the initial deadline earlier than the constitutional requirement so I could extend it out,”
Austin-King said. “I did get a surge of applicants after the extension.” Austin-King hopes to combat the low levels of student engagement by making correspondences with the student body interesting and engaging.
The newly elected senators also plan to use communication as a tool to increase student engagement. Jack Levin ’19 sees his position as an opportunity to help students make the changes they would like to see in their community.
“One of the main issues with student government is that students feel their voices won’t be heard, and I can say from firsthand experience that that’s just not true,” Levin said.
Levin hopes to increase correspondence between senators and students by opening new channels for communication.
“It’s hard to know when you’re in a line at the Bon or if you’re at the Dovecote who your Senators are, but it’s easy to see on social media that we’re here for you,” Levin said. He hopes that this will foster an ongoing relationship between Senators and students.
New Senator, Brooke Alexander ‘17, also thinks that student outreach is the best way to increase engagement. Inspired to run for office by the extended application deadline, Alexander hopes to bring new voices to the Senate.
“Whenever I run into people, whether I’m in the library or the darkroom for photography, I’m always bringing up the conversation [of what changes people would like to see],” Alexander said. “Different spaces on campus have different people, and different people have different viewpoints, so I’m really trying to get a well-rounded idea of what people’s thoughts are.”
Like Levin, Alexander expressed concern that students who are not involved in student politics feel that their voices will not be heard. She hopes to involve more students in the decision making process by actively engaging with a variety of diverse student demographics.
Despite the continued lack of engagement by the student body in student politics, the recent election shows an increase in interest compared to past years. The new senators are eager to involve more students in ASLC processes and encourage student involvement. Levin hopes that students are as open to communication as the senators.
“I hope that students know that the Senators are here for them, and that we’re ready to listen,” Levin said. “All you have to do is talk.”