Election season is upon us with the first round of Associated Students of the University of Nevada debates starting this week. Candidates for the office of president, vice president, and senate will duke it out over question and answer sessions in an attempt to win your vote for the privilege of serving in student government.
With that in mind, we’ve got two questions for the ASUN candidates:
1. How are you spending my money?
ASUN is funded by a $75 fee from each undergraduate student every semester. For the 2016-2017 academic year, the ASUN budget was $3,051,451.98. Over half of this money paid the salaries of undergraduates, graduates and professional staff working in the Association. Nearly 30 percent of the budget is allocated for student engagement and campus programs, which includes things like concerts and barbecues, club support funding, the Center for Student Engagement, etc. Most of the remaining money is for student services like Campus Escort, student publications, research funding, internship funding, a food pantry, legal services, etc.
Last week, in a presentation meant to engage students in the democratic process (which was attended by three ASUN senators, the ASUN Chief Justice and three Sagebrush reporters), ASUN Director Sandy Rodriguez compared ASUN student fees to grocery shopping. She asked, would you hand your money to the clerk at the grocery store and let them shop for you? Or, would you rather choose your own groceries and know what you’re spending your hard-earned cash on?
Would you rather hand your ASUN representatives a multi-million dollar check with the subject line left blank, or would you like a say in how that money is spent.
This election season we urge you to keep this in mind. Ask your candidates how they plan to spend your $75.
2. How are you representing my interests?
The ASUN president and vice president are elected by the whole student body. Senators are elected by their respective colleges. Executive board members are appointed by the president and approved by the senate. These positions include the Chief of Staff, Attorney General, and Directors of Clubs and Organizations, Legislative Affairs, Programming, Elections, Campus and Public Relations, Blue Crew and Diversity and Inclusion.
Ask your presidential candidates who they plan to appoint to these positions, and ask your senators how thoroughly they plan to vet the president’s selections.
Senators make up the legislative branch of the government. They represent the student body as a whole, but more specifically they act as delegates for the students in their college. They propose bills and resolutions, and vote based on personal interpretations.
Ask your senate candidates how they will best represent the interests of your college.
ASUN elected officials represent a diverse population of students, and the representatives themselves should have a broad understanding of the students and groups on this campus.
Ask your candidates how they plan to communicate with and understand the needs of a wide range of constituents.
When left alone, our ASUN representatives are autonomous. Professional staff exists to advise and make sure ASUN doesn’t spend its whole budget on a Cher and Santana concert (this actually happened a few decades ago).
More than that, we implore you, as students of this university, to be engaged with the university community and your student government.
Last week, we reported on the social media furor over Speaker Noah Teixeira’s years-old tweets. On social media, students asked for Teixeira to drop out of the ASUN presidential race. But in the days following the so-called scandal, students had multiple opportunities to attend public meetings and voice their opposition. Three students spoke during public comment at last week’s senate meeting. Two of them were Teixeira’s fraternity brothers who spoke in support of him. They said he’s a genuine guy who’s not racist or homophobic because he used to live with two black men, and he has gay friends. One woman asked if Teixeira feels he can be a fair representative of such a diverse student body. She happened to be the same person who posted the original screenshots of his tweets.
There are so many avenues to participate, with everything from voting in the annual election to speaking up at weekly senate meetings. But it all means nothing if you don’t show up.