Friday, March 22, 2013

Student government reflects national politics

by Alyssa Fountain, Guest Columnist

It may not seem like organized democracy affects college students’ daily lives, but it does. Student government works behind the scenes for you every day.        Unlike what some students may say, the student government organizations do not sit on their butts and talk about irrelevant topics all day.
   
Results for the ASPLU elections, which students voted on yesterday, will be announced today.
   
ASPLU sent the student body emails with links that took them to electronic ballots to vote, where they selected their favorite candidates.
   
The simplicity of these events amazed me. This is not the case everywhere in the world.
   
I lived at a university in Uganda for eight years. I know how student elections are run there, and the ease with which elections took place here is astounding compared to my old university.
   
In Uganda, people campaign partly based on the issue of tribe. A person will vote for someone who is a member of their tribe. This causes huge social divides as the tribes compete.
   
Elections in Uganda are more of a social event, with the results seeming to have more of an effect than in the U.S.
   
Here, at Pacific Lutheran University, people do not consider who they vote for as carefully.
   
Campaigning lasts for a much shorter period of time.
   
In Uganda every ballot is hand cast. The Friday night of election week, each individual vote is announced to a congregation of every interested student over a loud sound system. Students cheer as each vote for the candidate of their choice is revealed.
   
It is also worth noting what happens after the election takes place. In Uganda, the candidate will celebrate with the slaughter of a cow or goat. That does not exactly happen here at PLU.
   
In Uganda, votes can easily be bought with illicit beer or other simple bribes. Candidate after candidate gets disqualified for dishonesty.
   
I think the overwhelming notion I got from watching people vote in Uganda is that it is something incredibly important to do. They are willing to fight to be able to represent the students.
   
It is something to be celebrated, and it is something to do your best at.
   
Even so, former student body presidents in Uganda have gotten in trouble for embezzling money or spending thousands of dollars on a television to be put in the dining hall.
   
I guess the differences are a matter of philosophy.
   
In Uganda it is all about who you know and how you can cheat your way to the top, while in the U.S. it seems to be more about what your campaign platform actually is.
   
I think it is partly the country’s governmental systems that the student governments are modeled after.
   
If voting is chaotic nationwide, then even a student election will be more chaotic. There are no checks and balances in Uganda.
   
A lot of people do not see why it is important to vote for ASPLU.
   
Student government is an extremely active part of how life at any college works, regardless of cultural context.
   
ASPLU can do so much for you.
   
This year, ASPLU orchestrated the homecoming events, organized concerts and are preparing for the main event of the year, LollaPLUza, where vendors and musicians will be present for the PLU community.
   
They have also worked on increasing access to buildings on campus after working hours and are continuing to work on making the library open for longer hours.
   
But they need your honest vote in order to be able to serve you.