Students receive automatic spot on Student Congress due to greater student interest
While the majority of students were still settling in on campus, freshman Amari Thompson spent several days planning and designing campaign posters. She and her friends placed these posters in each of the freshman residence halls and the student center with one goal in mind: winning over her peers and representing them in Student Congress.
A few hours later, Thompson received a phone call from Student Congress President Taylor Williams explaining that she would receive a position uncontested.
The scheduled Sept. 5 fall elections were canceled, automatically granting any applicant a role in Student Congress.
Williams said Student Congress received a larger pool of applicants than in years past, citing increased student participation as the main motivation behind proposing to suspend the fall election.
After reviewing the applications, Williams realized there were enough positions for only 11 of the 13 applicants. Motivated by the heightened interest in Student Congress participation, Williams decided to review the Student Congress Constitution and bylaws with advisor and Assistant Dean of Students for Student Involvement Keri Ellington and ensured those two students a place in the organization.
“In the past three years here for Student Congress, it’s been like pulling teeth to get applications,” Williams said. “All around, I didn’t want to leave a bad taste in those two people’s mouths for not getting a position, because that’s how elections run.”
A single bylaw was the turning point in the discussion.
“[The bylaw] says that our Congress consists of 34 members, and what we have the power to do as a governmental entity for these organizations is that we can suspend this rule for the semester,” Williams said.
With this in mind, the entire executive board, Ellington and an unnamed general member chose to pardon the rule for the fall semester. Now, the organization consists of 38 members versus the stipulated 34.
Williams said adding more members will benefit students.
“It adds leeway if we have members miss or can’t meet quota for voting procedures,” she said. “This will give us more room to get things done.”
While Thompson was excited to receive a spot on the congress, she said she would have liked students to participate in the election process and choose the best fit candidates.
“I wasn’t mad. I was excited for other people who participated that all got the chance to be in Student Congress,” Thompson said. “I was more disappointed that there wasn’t an election because I was excited for the students to come out and vote.”
Like Thompson, freshman Kirsten Nielson was also in the application pool. She is now serving as an at-large representative, where she represents the interests and concerns of the entire student body.
Nielson took notice of increased student interest in politics and said she anticipates a “shift” in students’ treatment of governments on and off campus based on the 2016 presidential election.
“Students are either really mad or happy about it,” Nielson said. “People are starting to say, ‘Hey, I have that voice now,’ regardless of which side of the aisle you sit on.”
Williams said Student Congress plans to review the motion in-depth before Winter Term prior to making any permanent alterations to the by law.