This week, student elections will open on myOxy for the 2015–16 representatives of the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC). Elections are held each semester with the intent to fill a total of 22 seats combined on Senate and Honor Board. While the two first-year Senator seats cannot be filled until the fall, the other seats should be filled in full this semester. In addition to the Senate vice president of sustainability position, which has been vacant for much of the semester, 19 more seats will be vacant in the upcoming election. Yet not a single position on either Senate or Honor Board is contested in the elections for 2016–17 ASOC representatives and — even worse — there are four positions with no candidates running.
Occidental students deserve a Senate that is representative of their collective interests, which can only exist if students are selected through contested, and therefore competitive, races.
At-large positions require 40 students’ signatures on the candidate’s petition to be eligible to run. Class positions require 20 students’ signatures from the candidate’s class year. The constitution outlines the signature process as an initial screening of candidates, rather than a determinant of the democratic decision. When candidates run unopposed, they only need to garner the support of those 20 or 40 students, rather than the majority support of all voters. Therefore, not only should more students vote in elections, but more students should run for ASOC positions.
Given that Senate controls the allocation of a $705,000 budget — over $600,000 of which comes from annual student body fees — it is imperative that students develop a vested interest in the workings of Senate and engage in civic participation. Students are responsible for caring about the Occidental community. Senate approves club funding and oversees the funding of student services, making engagement in student government at Occidental essential to appropriately and efficiently using resources.
In order for Senate to reflect the student body’s true opinions, it is imperative to have more candidates run for all positions. Only through a more vitalized and contested race can students ensure that the candidate best suited to their interests wins. Until then, Senate will have to operate without a full slate of representatives, decreasing the collective knowledge of the organization.