Tuesday, January 22

Jerry Zhao: A competitive USAC election can foster more representative, accountable platforms

The original version of this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information.

This year’s undergraduate student government elections will feature candidates from three slates for the first time since 2010. In this election, 23 students applied to be candidates, hoping to fill 13 council positions.

It seems that competition is set to return to the Undergraduate Students Association Council election.

A contested election should serve as a wake–up call to candidates that they must run with a significant understanding of the position they’re seeking, their capabilities within that post and the needs of the students they will represent.

Such widespread competition will allow the candidates with the most salient ideas for office to rise to the top and will hopefully generate a knowledgeable and efficient group of council members.

Two new slates emerged this year in the wake of a single-slate race last year: LET’S ACT! and Bruin Alliance, formerly True Bruin. Both put forward candidates for the upcoming election.

Last year, 10 candidates ran uncontested, seven of which were from the Bruins United slate. This year’s election will provide the student body, by nature of the variety of the candidates and their positions, the ability to elect a council that thoroughly represents the undergraduate student body and a group of candidates better prepared to take office.

The council is intended to be a organization that “fairly represent(s) student interests, needs and welfare within the University community.” However, lack of competition both defeats the purpose of an elected council and provides little incentive for undergraduates unaffiliated with student government or student groups to engage with their representatives.

Moreover, the benefits of a competitive election will also shape the tenure of these new officials.

After being elected, the candidates will have a greater incentive to follow through on their platforms because the students who chose them over others will hold candidates more responsible and accountable. In contrast, for candidates who are put in office unopposed, that incentive might be reduced.

“Why should anyone who run unopposed feel obligated to anyone?” said Berky Nelson, an administrative representative for USAC.

Although independent candidates took five seats on the council last year, a lack of options likely influenced the drop in voter turnout, which dipped from 37 percent to 30 percent.

Without a choice to determine whether candidates represent the students’ interests, students may not feel the need to come out to vote as they already know what the outcome is going to be. But USAC offices aren’t the only items of importance in the May election – each year there are initiatives and referendums to decide on as well; increased competition could draw more students to weigh in on these issues.

This year’s election also provides students with a larger pool of personalities and ideas to pick from. The candidates’ many strengths, weaknesses, affiliations and ideas translate to broad choices of representation, giving students a better position to voice their needs and project their vision for the university.

The presidency alone is being contended by all three slates. Eight other positions will also be contested.

Although the goal of the slates is the same – to represent and act on behalf of UCLA’s undergraduates – how each candidate will choose to achieve that goal varies. The student body should take advantage of this multiplicity of candidates and take a few minutes to log in to MyUCLA and cast their vote come May.

Email Zhao at [email protected]. Send general comments to [email protected] or tweet us @DBOpinion.

Correction: Last year, 10 candidates ran uncontested, seven of which were from the Bruins United slate.

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    10 candidates from bruins united did not run unopposed. 10 candidates ran unopposed; 7 of them were bruins united.