Published: Friday, April 9, 2004 Murray State is not a member of the recently launched American Student Government Association, however, several universities in the nation have joined the organization in an effort to increase involvement.
ASGA is an advocate group for student governments at the university level in which the organizations can find support and exchange ideas with other institutions.
"The bottom line for most universities is student government's struggle for respect on their campus," Butch Oxendine, executive director of ASGA and president of Oxendine Publishing, said. "Students usually have a negative opinion of student government."
Founded in the fall of 2003 and launched this spring, ASGA is a new organization for student governments. However, 112 associations have already joined.
"(Oxendine) wanted us to jump on board and help get it going, but I wanted something more established before (the Student Government Association) got involved," Josh Rose, Murray State's SGA president, said. "I've looked at its Web site, and it looks like a good program."
Oxendine said the organization is the first to unite higher education student governments throughout the nation.
Rose said Oxendine contacted him in the fall about joining the organization, but because of SGA's limited budget, the membership fees were too expensive.
Fees for ASGA are based on the full-time student enrollment of a university. For Murray State, with nearly 7,500 full-time students, it would cost almost $1,000 annually to join.
"I've had a lot of contact with (Oxendine) through e-mail, but I just wanted to make sure (ASGA) is established before we spend money to join," Rose said. "Money is tight right now."
With membership and the annual fee, student governments have access to a list of every university-level SGA in the nation, receive free legal counsel and many other benefits.
One of ASGA's biggest advocacy programs is its attempt to increase voter turnout for student government elections.
"The national average for voter turnout in student government elections is only 2 percent," Oxendine said. "There are some universities that have 50 percent voter turnout, but most universities' (turnouts are) low."
Rose said in last year's SGA election, around 1,500 students voted. With a student population of almost 10,000 in the 2002-03 academic year, Murray State's voter turnout was about 15 percent.
Although above the national average, Rose still plans to advocate student involvement in the upcoming SGA elections April 20.
Thirty-one states are represented in the ASGA, and Oxendine said the organization has long-term goals to increase that number as well as the number of member student governments.
He said by 2008, he hopes to have 1,500 member student governments.
"If that happens then (ASGA) will be the largest student group in higher education," Oxendine said. "In four or five years, I see (ASGA) dictating standards for all student governments. We are already a member of the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education."
Two Kentucky schools, Bellarmine and Campbellsville universities, are members of ASGA.