Originally published in The Western Carolina Journalist.
The Student Government Association (SGA) is holding its annual elections for the Student Senate, Student Body Vice-President and the Student Body President.
The candidate filing period was open from Jan. 10 – Jan. 24 for candidates to apply to run.
After being vetted to ensure that candidates meet the requirements to serve as delegated officials, the campaign period will be open from Feb. 21 to March 1 for candidates to announce that they are running and spread their message and platform. The WCU population will be made aware of who is running by the time the campaign period opens.
Voting will be open to the student body from Feb. 28 to March 1, with the election results being announced March 2. If there is a runoff election, that may take place as early as March 10.
The SGA Student Body President serves as the chief delegate and spokesperson for the student body. As such, they are a voting member on the Board of Trustees, they deliver an annual State of the University address, and designate members of the Executive Council to help with their leadership.
The current SGA President Rebecca Hart and Vice-President Susannah Lester are graduating in May.
The Student Body Vice President will assume the position of the Student Body President in the event the president is removed, resigns, or can no longer complete and fulfill their duties. The vice president also acts as President of the Senate, casting the final vote in the event of a tie, impeaching senators as need be, and helping create an expenditure with the president.
The Student Senate helps serve as the voice of the student body. They pass resolutions, establish statutes, and amend the Constitution and By-Laws of SGA as needed. The Senate also votes to confirm or deny students elected into positions as well as voting on resolutions.
Despite students being informed about the application period through emails and various other postings, SGA was initially challenged with a low number of applications to run, but SGA Elections Committee Chair, Ben Tisinger, said that they had 51 applicants by the midnight deadline, which he said is a very promising number.
“Per our bylaws and regulations, we can only have up to 50 senators, so we prefer right at 50 overall or around 50,” said Tisinger to the WCJ in an email. “From the numbers we have it should be [a] competitive election for all positions.”
The Student Senate position is open to all students whereas Student Body Vice-President and President must be an active SGA Senate member for a full year prior. Where anybody can apply for Senate, it can be harder to find people to fill the Vice-President and President roles, said Tisinger.
SGA positions are all contingent upon being enrolled full-time, having at least a 2.5 GPA and not having any current Code of Student Conduct violations.
While students are informed of SGA events and happenings through emails, social media posts, the MyWCU portal and engage.wcu.edu, many SGA messages are not being seen by large numbers of students, leading to confusion about what is going on, as the WCJ previously reported regarding the changes in fees for the 2022 – 2023 academic year.
When asked how SGA could improve student participation, Tisinger said “I think it requires SGA to market better, maybe not market fully online, maybe market a little bit more outside of online,” including sidewalk chalk and tabling.
He called it a “double-edged sword”, saying that SGA needs to advertise and students need to get involved and understand that the Student Body President is the one who represents the students’ voice.