Low student voter turnout inhibits representation
UB Council student representative election to take place next week
Voting for the UB Council Student Representative opens next week, despite general lack of awareness among students about what the position is or that it is even elected.
The University Council Student Representative election has suffered from embarrassingly low voter turnout in years past, despite being held online and allowing participation from undergraduates and postgraduates. Nearly 30,000 students are eligible to vote each year; about 2-3 percent actually do.
UB Council, required by state law, is made up of 10 members. Nine are appointed by the governor and the final is appointed by our votes. The council is charged with overseeing the largest and most significant decisions of the university president, advisory board and senior officers. They also suggest regulations.
Our student representative acts as the sole voice of the student body on the council, the singular representative of our feelings on issues that irreversibly shift university action and policy. If as little as 2 percent of the student body is represented at the polls, however, there is little certainty that we are all being represented.
The appointed members of the Council speak for a variety of community stakeholders. Concerns and desires of the student body are likely far from the minds of most members, giving the student representative the complete responsibility to speak on our behalf.
Our current representative, Daniel Ovadia, took the position in 2012, with a total of 341 votes. He was re-elected the following year with 242 votes, beating his opponent by just eight.
Though the past two years reveal the laughably low number of votes cast, they also highlight the thin margins that turn these elections, emphasizing the need to become informed on the council, position and candidates.
Ultimately, the lack of visibility of the position and the general ignorance of the role are causing the low turnout. Though something can be said for students taking a more proactive role in educating themselves on elected student positions, with numbers so low there is clearly a structural deficit.
Whoever is elected this year should make active outreach and education his/her top priority.
This election cycle has drawn more candidates than years past - six students, five undergraduates and one Ph.D. candidate are vying for the position. The interest is understandable given the benefits it affords those elected, providing both meaningful professional experience and networking potential.
This election is less glamorous than the Student Association elections, to be sure, but the role is vital for our views and concerns to be heard by those that have power to change policies.
Polls open online Tuesday and close Thursday. The website to vote and view candidate platforms is www.student-affairs.buffalo.edu/vote/.