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Press Clipping: High voter turnout for Exec Board at Vassar College This article from the The Miscellany News at Vassar College mentions the American Student Government Association.
Tahoe college students collect more than 400 cans for Project MANA
By Hannah Blume on April 24, 2013
Last Wednesday, April 17, students crowded into the Retreat to hear VSA Election Co-Chairs Devin Griffin ’13 and Clayton Masterman ’13 announce this year’s results. Many of the big races were not a surprise, as four of the six candidates for Executive positions ran uncontested. These included Deb Steinberg ’14 for President, Genesis Hernandez ’15 for VP for Student Life, Ali Ehrlich ’15 for VP for Operations and Stephanie Goldberg ’14 for Activities. Shruti Manian ’14 won the position of VP for Academics over Spencer Virtue ’16 and Michael Renner ’14. Michael Kaluzny ’14 won VP for Finance over Wendel Smith 14’ and Cheniah Deane ’16.
The number of unopposed races this year was unusually high. Griffin attributed this to the daunting time commitment and sense of competition. “A lot of these positions are hard work and don’t necessarily attract a huge number of people who want to do them,” he wrote in an emailed statement.
He continued, “Second, I think that people here tend to avoid competition and uncertainty—if there’s already someone running for something, especially someone you think would be a stiff competitor, there’s a good chance you’ll find something else.”
The VSA has several projects in the works to help encourage more students to run in the future. First, Student Life is currently working on a proposal that would allow Executive members on financial aid to count the job as work-study. Additionally, Steinberg organized a campaign training day with the Women’s Center to alleviate some of the fears about campaigning and help people get started with building their platforms.
In spite of the low number of candidates, voter turnout for executive positions was above average at 43.4 percent. Outgoing VSA President Jason Rubin ’13 noted that this number is uniquely high for student elections.
“I know a lot of schools are lucky to break 30 [percent] and many are closer to 10 [percent] or less,” he wrote in an emailed statement. “It was a big topic at an American Student Government Association conference that we went to which basically said that on average 30 [percent] turnout was great and what schools should try and aim for,” he continued.
Rubin was enthusiastic about the incoming board. “I think the new board brings together a great combination of people with different perspectives and voices on campus. This will serve them really well as they attempt to represent all of the different voices within our student body,” he wrote.
Though Steinberg will carry over projects from her time as VP for Operations this year, she also hopes to tackle new issues. In particular, she noted one continuity will be working to establish a strong student space on campus in light of the cancellation of the bookstore move to Juliet Café building on Collegeview.
“There are still ways to get a central space on campus that better suits the needs of students,” she said. “I’m not 100 percent sure what that’s going to look like—and it depends on what people will let me do—but that might mean extending hours at the Retreat or extending hours at the Deece so that students can be getting food and meeting up with friends at later hours at a central space.” Steinberg also mentioned improving lighting in dorm common rooms for additional meeting space.
Though there are many issues Steinberg wants to deal with on campus, she is also setting her sights off campus and hopes to establish a stronger network with other Seven Sisters colleges. As a result of her efforts, Vassar will host the Seven Sisters Conference this fall. “I think that will facilitate more conversation with the other schools and more friendships with the other schools,” she said.
Additionally, she also hopes it will create opportunities for political solidarity across campuses. Steinberg explained, “Take for instance the Greens’ Divestment Campaign. A lot of the other schools are working on similar things so if we were to work with them we could have a much stronger message in the political sphere or in the economic sphere.”
Steinberg also hopes that a more relaxed leadership style will increase participation at Council meetings.
“There are a lot of times when nobody knows what’s going on because motions are really complicated,” she said. “I recognize that those are important and allow us to have meetings where everyone can speak but I think that sometimes it can be silencing to people who don’t understand those rules. So I am more open to, not necessarily relaxing the rules, but recognizing when situations really don’t require certain quorums, and making the whole space a little bit more relaxed.”
But above all, Steinberg stressed accessibility, noting that her previous experience as VP for Operations makes her uniquely knowledgeable on Vassar’s administrative structure. “I want to use my knowledge to bring the student voice to those high administrators but also better communicate to the students what the administrators are saying and also just help students have access to all the resources on this campus,” she said. She also plans to host an open house for the VSA during freshman orientation to educate incoming students on the organization’s structure.
Accessibility was a theme throughout the entire Executive Board. Incoming VP for Student Life Hernandez, who currently serves as Co-President of QCVC and Spectrana, hopes to provide more visibility and resources for ALANA organizations. “I believe that my purpose as VP of Student Life is to portray the many voices on campus, but to also specifically reach out to marginalized voices,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
VP for Activities Stephanie Goldberg hopes to give increased support to smaller, newer, and lesser-funded orgs. “I plan on attending general body meetings for each org every so often, and meeting regularly with org leaders to check in with them,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “If they need any assistance in programming or finding a space, I am there to assist them.”
Implicit in Steinberg’s definition of accessibility is representing opinions that are not necessarily in the majority.
“A few years ago, I sent out a survey about the water bottle ban,” she recalled. “One person out of thirty was against it… It is important to make sure that those concerns are heard even though they are not something that everyone is concerned about. If you are not considering those voices then you are not representing all students.”
ASGA's MISSION STATEMENT:
The American Student Government Association will provide all Student Government leaders and advisors nationwide with networking, research, and information resources and will teach them how to become more effective, ethical, and influential leaders on their campuses. ASGA also will promote the advancement of SGs, conduct research as the nation’s only “SG Think Tank,” and advocate the importance of having a vibrant, autonomous Student Government organization at every institution in America.