I am a huge fan of the presidential election. When it comes around every four years I watch every debate, read every article, research every issue. It sometimes seems a little unnecessary, but I like to stay involved and know what’s going on and how I am, or may be, affected.
So, when the Associated Student Government (ASG) election came around and I couldn’t force myself to get involved, I was confused. I mean, why was I so uninterested in elections so close to home?
While student government is a very important part of a campus community, it seems like Northwestern students don’t feel any attachment to ASG. Instead of making an informed vote in this year's election, many of the small percentage of students that did cast a vote, got their information from endorsements and friends. This is not the way it should be. Endorsements do not replace actually doing the research and understanding candidates' positions.
After two quarters of only hearing “ASG” a handful of times, at the beginning of Spring Quarter my Facebook newsfeed was suddenly flooded with profile pictures and cover photos promoting the candidates. Every Facebook group and GroupMe I was in had members posting about the election. The names and the faces of the candidates were everywhere, but I didn’t know anything about them. What were their platforms? What’s their experience? In general, who are these people?
I am not the only one who feels unaffected by ASG. The voter turnout in this year’s election was 2,991, an increase from the 1,758 votes cast last year, but still extremely low considering our student population.
These numbers are not surprising at all. When most students see campaigning around campus and on social media, they ignore it. They don’t care about the election results and they don’t want to waste their time.
Many of those who did vote, however, didn’t come to their decisions entirely on their own.
Throughout the campaign I talked to many people who didn’t have the time or energy to do their own research and instead just looked to see what their friends were doing, or who certain student groups were voting for. But what do these endorsements mean? How can a large student group all agree on one candidate? Or, if they take it to a vote, as some do, how is that fair to then say the whole group endorses a candidate when some members may not agree.
I’m not going to lie; I definitely allowed my friends’ endorsements of the candidates to lead me in the beginning. I figured if I see a friend, whose opinion I respect, endorsing a candidate, I will highly consider that candidate because I trust my friend’s opinions. Of course, the same thing goes for the reverse and if someone I’m not too fond of changes their profile picture to support certain candidates, I would be unlikely to support those candidates.
Many others follow endorsements blindly and their votes reflect what they see and hear around them. Now, in a time of social media, having a presence on Facebook is everything, and it is easy to see why. I would like to know, out of the 2,991 voters, how many voted without looking at the candidates’ platforms, without being able to point out a photo of the candidate they voted for, without reading any articles covering the campaign published by publications across campus.
This is my first time experiencing the ASG elections, and while I love Northwestern and how driven and involved all of the students are, I found the election to be disappointing. The majority of Northwestern students turned their back on the campaigns out of apathy, letting other people do the work for them. The gap between ASG and the student body may be improving based on the increase in votes cast this year, but more needs to be done.
Student government can be as powerful or weak as a campus wants it to be. Right now, after the election results, I question the strength of ASG, but I believe that it doesn’t have to be this way. If the election results showed anything it’s that there’s a lot of work to be done to make ASG become more than just a profile picture that students find on their newsfeed once a year.