The Daily Texan Forum this week focuses on Student Government elections and their costs. The University of Texas Student Government passed AB 9 last week, authored by forum contributor Amber Magee, which cuts the amount of money that candidates are able to spend in SG elections roughly in half, beginning in the elections of 2017. Currently, SG spending limits allow candidates for president to spend upwards of $1,000 dollars, with lesser amounts for those running to be SG representatives and first-year representatives.
The legislation intends to boost access to SG positions, thereby boosting diversity as well. Its proponents believe it will enable scores of individuals to run for positions that they were previously unable to participate in. This legislation comes during a time where SG continues to face obstacles in engaging the whole student body, even in the light of Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu’s victory in last year’s presidential election. Although the candidates — who made light of the SG electoral process — won the election, only around 9,000 students voted in the runoff out of a campus of 50,000, an amount viewed as high.
However, there is disagreement among some with the content and timing of the legislation. As Tanner Long, SG Speaker, writes, he believes that it was the right step to make this legislation take effect in the next election cycle, especially as the races for SG seats begin to take shape this semester. He also believes that money does not play as big of a role in SG elections as believed by the author of the legislation.
As SG looks to boost voter turnout and increase student engagement with the institution, perhaps this will be the right step. But SG should make a more concerted effort to broaden its base by encouraging those outside of traditional areas of SG to run for office and engaging them for policy ideas. Time in SG breeds expertise, but new voices are just as crucial in advocating for students to the administration, city and state. Whether this legislation will truly improve student engagement remains to be seen, but Student Government’s recognition that these issues are inherent to the system and do not seem to be going away is a strong step. For now, those running for SG office in two weeks will face their spending limit unchanged, but next year, the process will include lower spending limits, and possibly, more diversity.
Fountain is a government senior from Pelham Manor, New York. Fountain is the Forum Editor. Follow Fountain on Twiiter @wf_atx.