If people were angels, James Madison wrote, we would need no government. Instead, we have UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council, and the undergraduate students who run for student government office have the USAC Election Board.
While running for office in May, I called for more transparency from our campus’ elected officials about where – and how efficiently – our student fees are spent, and for new practices geared to involve as many Bruins as possible in student government. In May’s election, however, less than 28 percent of the undergraduate electorate chose to vote – the lowest that turnout has been in the last decade.
Maybe students didn’t vote because so many offices last year were uncontested. When even those on the inside track of our student government don’t care enough to present visions for various offices, it’s hard to see why anyone outside it would care enough to vote.
We need to change that this year. We students need to find ways to jolt new life into our student government by running, campaigning, voting, complaining and proposing solutions. It may be through informational campaigns on social media, campus radio or the Daily Bruin. It may be in-person information sessions about what our student government does and how to run for it. It may even be through reforms that lighten the financial load of running for office on a campus of 31,000 undergraduate students. However it may be, we need to make it as easy as possible for students – especially incoming ones – to engage with USAC and stay that way through election day.
I now chair the USAC Election Board, which is responsible for proposing reforms to the code governing student elections and for overseeing five operating committees that put on and police the May 2018 election. During my tenure as chair, I plan to lead and reform with a single goal: increasing voter engagement for the 2018 election, while maintaining the fairest and most accessible elections possible. Bruins who would join us in creating a campus culture of civic duty should apply for one of the Election Board’s open positions, suggest improvements to the Election Code to me or council members, or run for office.
Some might wonder what voting in a student government election will change. The administration and the powers that be, they reason, can easily swat away our messengers as a bear would dismiss a gnat. Such cynicism is self-fulfilling, however. Calls for accountability, or for anything at all, are easy to ignore when they are voiced by so few, and the administration housed in Murphy Hall is more than happy to ignore those who arguably represent less than a third of campus.
But power is created by consensus. If we can increase the student body’s belief in the power of our student government – increase its belief in the power of its vote – the Election Board can increase the clout the student body wields, both on and off campus.
The $37,501 budget I now manage as the Election Board chair is funded entirely by student fees. I invite you all to take charge of how it will be spent, and join me in wrangling the political animals that would roam the halls of power – or at least Kerckhoff Hall.
Price is the chair of the 2017-18 USAC Election Board.