Recently, the Nexus polled six students on whether they cared about the Associated Students election. All six answered that they did not care about the elections. Traditionally, about two-thirds of the undergraduate electorate does not vote. The lack of attention A.S. elections receive is directly related to the perceived importance of A.S. and, more importantly, the campaigns and the candidates themselves. This indifference affects the popular mandate of A.S. and its ability to act effectively and is counteractive to the purpose of A.S. While the effects of undergraduate voter indifference are all negative, the statement of apathy toward A.S. elections is profound.
Students’ indifference to the elections can easily be summed up – the elections are not about the electorate. In the majority of advertising that reaches students – the campaign signs – there is no mention of how the election will affect Joe Average student. Bill Clinton, who was a brilliant campaigner, said that elections are always about the voter, never the candidate. Clinton’s campaign philosophy does not seem to be possessed by any of the current A.S. candidates. Moreover, the methods and messages of the candidates encourage students to become indifferent.
Advertising, the press, debates and speeches traditionally are the means of educating voters on the stances of candidates. The advertising in the A.S. elections is done primarily through campaign signs. The onslaught of signs over the past two weeks illustrates the candidates’ campaign philosophies of advertising themselves, not their theories on the future of the student government. Each sign fails to address the electorate about why they should vote for that particular candidate. Just because I see a person’s name multiple times while going to class does not mean I am going to vote for them. The “Vote Marty” signs have a man, presumably the wonderful Marty, pointing out from the sign at the electorate. I assume his signs are a play on the Uncle Sam “We Want You” signs of the early 20th century; however, they do not tell me anything about himself or, more importantly, his stance on contemporary issues. The “CP” signs, which have gone into the realm of the T-shirt, seem to only illustrate the ability to mass produce handmade signs. One candidate does have more than just a name on the sign – it reads “Experience.” Thanks, now I know. But what kind of experience does that candidate possess? Overall, the techniques used by the candidates do not address the indifference of the undergraduate voter.
Unfortunately, neither I nor the other 16,000 undergrads attended the first set of debates held in the UCen. However, the articles in the Nexus seem to sum up the rhetoric of the candidates. Their stance on issues further explains the indifference of the majority of undergraduate students. Many of the issues discussed lack relevance to the broad and diverse student population. No candidate seemed to stand out as a potentially great leader with ideas for a better UCSB. None of them addressed larger issues, like the importance the university places on undergraduate education or the perception of UCSB students in the Santa Barbara community. The fact is, on paper UCSB’s A.S. is competitive to A.S. at Cal and UCLA, but we do not initiate change in the state, as do those A.S. organizations. By addressing larger issues the candidates would reach a larger portion of the electorate.
Traditionally, elections with a high turnout contain one of two elements, an exceptional candidate or an important issue. Both of these are not found in the current A.S. campaign. Each of the candidates differs only slightly from one another on most topics. Of those topics, none stands out as a great change or evolution for A.S. at UCSB. As for the candidates, all I know is that they are good at making signs; their ability as leaders has not been demonstrated.
Finally, I want to vote. I want to care about the future of the A.S., but I cannot. Being a former A.S. president at another school I understand the importance and moreover the potential of A.S. The ability of A.S. is dependent upon the motivating factors of the people running the organization. Without a compelling motivation, besides a r