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ASW election delayed until end of March; leaders express concern of low student interest

Westminster students sits in front of Shaw during campaign for ASW Election
Mike O’Hearn sits in front of the Shaw Student Center in September 2020 campaigning for first-year senator. The ASW general election is expected to occur at the end of March as opposed to the usual mid-February as a result of empty seats, low student interest and little student participation, according to ASW leaders. (Photo Courtesy: Daniel Folweiler)

ASW elections are expected to occur at the end of March as opposed to the usual mid-February as a result of empty seats, low student interest and little student participation, according to ASW leaders. 

This comes after a year of elections that had only one candidate for each board position, followed by a special election for clubs president after there was no name on the ballot.

“Last year we didn’t have many people run for Senate positions and we also just had one or two for the board positions,” Chief Justice Chris Ooley said. “I think the most we had was two for president.” 

Because the student body didn’t show much interest in the last election, it has been a lengthy process to fill ASW senate seats — one that poured into the Fall semester. 

“We just now have a full Senate,” Ooley said.

The Senate was set at the end of the Fall semester, hosting its first meeting Nov. 18. As a result, Ooley said it’s too early to start thinking about replacing seats. 

While unprecedented, the election delay is constitutionally legal for ASW.

Two students campaign for ASW elections in Fall of 2020.
Mike O’Hearn and Gus Edwards enjoy the sun while working on their campaigns for first-year senators during the Fall semester. The ASW general election is expected to occur at the end of March as opposed to the usual mid-February as a result of empty seats, low student interest and little student participation, according to ASW leaders. (Photo Courtesy: Daniel Folweiler)

“The constitution basically says we have to have [the election] between the second week of February and the last week of March,” Ooley said. “And we have to have our results no later than the 31st.”

ASW First-Year Senator Gus Edwards, who serves on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, was elected in August. He said he became involved “to get [his] voice heard on campus because there’s not many other ways to do that here.”

Edwards encourages others to “be involved because there’s a lot of things at this school that are due to be changed, and the only way to make that happen is by voting and electing people who want to make changes.”

Students note the importance of not only making changes on campus but fighting for voter equality and creating equity within the community.

“There has been a long-standing fight for voter equality that still stands today,” said Logan Deutchman, senior public health major sociology minor. “Voting is what shapes a democratic society. Yet, when only the most privileged people have a voice in systemic structure, societal operations often neglect the needs of minority communities.” 

Deutchman highlights that voting is a privilege no matter the form — even for student elections. 

“As a person of privilege, rejecting my right to vote means disregarding the active fight to create equity within society.” Deutchman said, “Although ASW elections may not hold the same significance as national voting opportunities, the principle of voting still holds true.”

Though for some students, voting incentive lies within their close ties.

Bernard Kintzing, senior computer science major, said he votes in ASW elections when “there is usually someone I know in the election that I vote in.”

Ooley said he hopes to highlight one incentive that he believes could attract more attention to ASW: financial aid.

He said it is “not very well known that each position on the board has financial scholarship attached to it.” However, the most recent budget released by the student government shows almost half of its allotted budget goes toward scholarships and associate leader pay. 

This fact isn’t a secret — the budget is usually released at the beginning of every academic year. 

But as Ooley points out, “Tuition has increased and people deserve to know how much money they can get.”

With student backlash to the tuition increase announced in the 2019-2020 academic school year — resulting in a silent protest outside a scheduled faculty meeting and the creation of the Westminster Student Union — Ooley said he hopes this could be a magnet for students who need some extra encouragement to become more involved.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified which board position had no candidates during the 2020 ASW General Election. It was clubs president.

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Emmaline Russell
Emmaline Russell is a senior communication major from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is heavily involved in Westminster College's athletic community. Emmaline is captain of the women's lacrosse team and serves on the SAAC board. When she is not on the field or in the classroom, you can find her enjoying a nearby trail or crag. If it's rainy, your next best bet is searching Salt Lake City's museums and art galleries.

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