By Brandan Hartland
Every spring, student-government elections roll around at IUP, and it’s the same story — student apathy and low voter turnout.
The Student Government Association’s get-out-the-vote effort is another familiar story – an email “blast” sent to all IUP students alerting them to their civic duty in the April 11-12 elections. But SGA’s top election official said the emails don’t work well.
“I’d say the best way to spread it is word of mouth,” said Election Committee Chairman Brandon Marree in an April 11 telephone interview.
Students interviewed about the upcoming elections agreed that more could be done to encourage student voting participation.
In an April 12 interview in Folger Dining Hall, student Sara Baker (junior, criminology) suggested “advertising in The Penn more than a week before election time and putting signs up around campus.”
Baker added, however, that advertising alone may not be enough to draw student voters to the polls.
“I voted last year, but I don’t plan on voting this year because nothing has changed, so I don’t see the point,” Baker said. “The school needs to give the SGA more power if they want students to care about it.”
Student Tracy Landis said SGA candidates need to do more, too.
“The candidates need to be more involved with the students,” Landis (sophomore, interior design) said in an interview at Folger.
Landis said she didn’t plan to vote in this year’s SGA elections.
Returns from the 2007 SGA elections show that IUP had the lowest voter turnout of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities in the western part of the state.
Of 14,000 eligible IUP voters, 209 cast ballots for the SGA presidential election, a 1 percent turnout.
Slippery Rock University had the highest turnout among the western-region SSHE campuses. Of 8,300 SRU students, 1,800 voted in the spring ’07 student-government election, a 22 percent turnout, officials reported.
In a post-election April 24 news conference in Davis Hall, IUP SGA President-elect Craig Faish said he will try to get students more involved in student government. Faish said he will focus SGA meetings on topics that matter to students. He said he will ask students what issues they care about. Faish said he will advertise SGA meetings by advertising on the Internet, chalking sidewalks and posting fliers in residence halls.
“We need to try to get our name out there in different creative ways,” Faish said.
“Perhaps go to freshman and sophomore classes and do a presentation saying who we are and what we do. The SGA should be working for a change.”
Sidebar: 2007 Student-government election voter turnout, PASSHE campuses, western-region
Campus Turnout (%)
Slippery Rock U. 22
California U. 17
Lock Haven U. 14
Sources: IUP Trendbook, IUP Center of Student Life, student-government associations at SRU, CU and LHU