Executive privilege

I couldn’t be more excited to announce that The Tartan was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Newspaper of the Year competition at this year’s Associated Collegiate Press National College Newspaper Convention, on March 5. This puts The Tartan in the top eight weekly broadsheet newspapers published by any four-year college in the country.

I want to extend my congratulations to all of The Tartan’s staff. This staff’s hard work and dedication have made The Tartan one of the best newspapers in its class. This is a fantastic honor that really shows the strides we’ve taken in the past two years. We are now more able than ever before to inform and entertain our community.

Changing gears, student government elections are coming quickly. In this election, we students choose who we want to represent us as student body president, student body vice-president, student vice-president for finance, and Senators or representatives. Important dates for those who wish to run for these positions are on the horizon:

• April 10: Final deadline for Executive Office petitions
• April 14: Final deadline for Student Senate petitions
• April 24–25: Election Dates

The people who fill these roles can do great things for the student body, but it isn’t the office that makes it possible for them to be effective leaders. The students elected to these positions gain very few concrete powers.

The president, for example, has the power to veto legislation from the Undergraduate Student Senate or the Graduate Student Assembly, create ad hoc committees, and call special meetings of the Undergraduate Student Senate or the Graduate Student Assembly. The student vice-president for finance is granted the power to review the budgets of any student-government-funded organization activity and the power to freeze those budgets. These powers don’t go very far in helping student government leaders get things done.

What, then, makes the positions so important and valuable? It’s the vote. The greatest power these executive officers can have is the support of the students. That’s why these elections are so important. A student body president who pulls strong student support is the students’ best chance to have a foot in Warner Hall’s door.

That’s hard to do when voter turnout is as low as it’s been in recent years. Only 2151 (nearly all undergraduate) out of more than 7710 undergraduate and graduate students eligible to vote did so last year, and only a few more voted the year before. Such poor voter turnout undermines the legitimacy of the office. We should be aiming for elections that draw 50 percent of the entire student body. Student representatives who bring in that kind of participation will have much more weight behind them as they fight for students’ interests. This can only happen if the Elections Board and the candidates work tirelessly and creatively to get out the vote. It’s about time we have a real election.

On a final note, I’d like to congratulate Franklin Williams, a member of The Tartan’s editorial board, in being chosen as this year’s Elections Committee chair. I have no doubt that Franklin and the rest of the committee will help deliver a fair and successful election. As his role as the Elections Committee chair requires his being entirely unbiased in the matter, Franklin will abstain from participating in editorial decision-making related to the elections’ proceedings or the various candidates. I wish Franklin and the rest of the Elections Board the best of luck. They’ve got their work cut out for them.