This year, when students logged on to vote in the SGA executive elections, they were also asked to voice their opinion on the proposed smoking ban on the Homewood campus. A total of 2,860 students participated, which was the “highest voter turnout in recent SGA memory,” according to Rob Turning, Director of Student Activities.
The editorial board is pleased with the high voter turnout and with the University’s decision to conduct this referendum. The SGA has struggled at times to reach out to the student body on a large scale. Currently, students are encouraged to email executive members with ideas and requests, and in theory, SGA meetings are open to all members of the student body. While both of these are appropriate measures, students unsurprisingly often choose not to pop in on SGA meetings or send emails to the executives. More importantly, while sending emails or sitting in on meetings may allow individuals or small groups of students to voice their ideas and opinions, these channels make it difficult for a more substantial number of students to meaningfully participate.
The impressive level of participation in the recent referendum is a promising potential solution to any disconnect between the SGA and the student body. The News-Letter encourages the SGA to make note of this high turnout and use referendums in the future when appropriate. Online referendums will help benefit the SGA with a better understanding of how the student body stands on certain matters. Students’ voices will be more clearly heard, and their ability to directly impact matters in the school community will increase, which in turn will encourage more participation and higher turnout in elections. The SGA should take care, of course, to ensure it only uses referendums for significant and relevant issues on which the student body would want to weigh in.
Online voting will not eliminate all of the communication problems between the student body and the SGA, but it represents a big step in the right direction.