The voter turnout for this year's Student Government (SG) election surpassed that of past years, yet early coverage did not do justice to the electoral importance of the graduate student votes. A dramatic rise in votes from graduate students may reveal a new trend in SG elections at the University.
The votes from graduate students totaled 1,084, or approximately 45 percent of the entire student vote. Among graduate divisions, the Graduate School of Business (GSB) was conspicuous in its numbers, with business school students casting 563 votesnearly half of the graduate total. After the GSB, the graduate division with the second greatest number of votes was the Law School, with 157, followed by the Social Sciences division, with 104. These were the only three graduate divisions to have more than 100 votes each. Undergraduate votes in the election totaled 1,343.
More than five and a half times as many GSB students voted this year as last year, when only 101 voted in the SG elections out of a total 323 votes cast from graduate students. The total number of votes from graduate students has increased by 70 percent.
Sharlene Holly, the Director of the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA), cited two key facts which she believed explained the explosion in the Graduate student vote: the GSB student, Brett Kadison, who campaigned on the Raising the BAR slate, and the two positions for student liaison. Holly emphasized the importance of having both an undergraduate and graduate student serve as liaisons, and further noted that the graduate students ran as write-in candidates.
"When you are not on the ballot, you actually have to work to get people to vote for you," Holly said of the write-in candidates. "Having graduate students as write-in candidates forced them to campaign harder and contributed to a higher voter turnout among the graduate school divisions."
Holly also mentioned two other factors that may have contributed to the higher graduate student turnout. She said the fact that Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC) ran out of funds early in the spring attracted greater attention to SG shortly before the elections. Holly also pointed to the growing importance of the 15-member Graduate Council in SG, which was incorporated into the College Assembly, along with the College Council, only about five years ago.
Raising the BAR, the slate that won the elections in a landslide vote, declined to comment on the significance of the results or on their electoral strategies.
Cameron Downing, a third-year in the College who campaigned on the Slate of the Union slate, said that his slate did make an effort to cultivate the graduate student votes.
"We figured the GSB was a lost battle, since Raising the BAR had a GSB student on their ticket, but we actively sought out graduate students," Downing said, adding that he spent five hours tabling at the School of Social Administration (SSA). Although his slate was unsuccessful, Downing said that he was "heartened and happy" about the turnout en masse of both graduate and undergraduate students.
Mustafa Domaniç, a second-year in the College and the presidential candidate for This Charming Slate, admitted that his slate did not make any efforts to campaign among graduate students, preferring to let their ideas stand on their own merit. "In fact, we pretty much gave up in the last two days of elections," Domaniç said of his slate's ill-fated campaign, hindered from the get-go when it was penalized by the Election Rules Committee (ERC) after a controversial article appeared in the Maroon.
Domaniç said he was disappointed by the whole electoral process and felt that the ERC did not monitor a fair campaign. Domaniç cited other slates that set up laptops in public areas to facilitate student voting and the Moose Party's endorsement of Raising the BAR as patently unfair practices that should have been curbed by the ERC.