Abigail Ruhman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
November starts off with some important elections. While the midterm elections impact the world around us, there is one election that affects MU students specifically.
The Missouri Students Association is a student government organization. Each resolution they pass is supposed to represent what the student body believes, and what they want changed on campus. As the student body government, that makes sense.
The issue is that MSA is failing at making their elections fair. The MSA elections are Nov. 12 to 14, despite the fact that their OrgSync page stated that they were already held on Nov. 5.
This year there are 33 vacant academic seats and more opening up for the spring semester. Each one of these spots allows student advocates to share their ideas for MU, yet not a single candidate has to campaign for their spot.
There are two ways to become one of 81 MSA senators: academic and at-large elections. The general student body votes in candidates for the 50 academic seats, which represent the different schools on campus. Academic elections occur twice a year, once during the fall semester and once during the spring semester.
The lack of information shared about the election creates an unlevel playing field between students who already have some connection to MSA and those who do not. Most information about the MSA senate elections was shared through the senate’s Twitter account and OrgSync page.
With only one reminder posted on the senate Orgsync page, Twitter seemed to be the main place to spread the word. The problem with this is that it fails to actually spread the word evenly through campus.
Only 6,459 accounts follow the MSA main Twitter account as of Nov. 12, meaning that even if all those accounts represented current students approximately 29 percent of undergraduate students would have seen the reminders. That’s assuming that no faculty, alumni, organizations or other people follow the account. Also, it assumes that all 6,459 people just happen to go on Twitter at the right time to see one of five reminders for the senatorial race.
Understandably, the MSA Board of Elections Commissioners and MSA senate also posted about the election on their Twitter account.
MSA Board of Elections Commissioners’ account is only followed by 269 accounts as of Nov. 12. Once again, assuming that none of these accounts expand past current undergraduate students, as well as not repeating from the MSA main account account, an additional 1 percent.
The MSA senate Twitter account adds 636 followers to the mix, as of Nov. 12. Assuming that all of their followers are MU undergraduate students and no one account follows more than one of the three Twitter accounts, then MSA has only reached approximately 31 percent of the undergraduate student body.
The organization states, “We represent the undergraduate student body at the University of Missouri,” on their OrgSync page, but they fail to live up to their description.
Because they didn’t reach a majority of the student body, this election has come down to a single candidate for each seat. This means they only need a single vote to gain that senate seat. The student body vote does not matter because there is only one candidate they can vote for.
When students aren’t aware of these elections, they are less likely to run for a position. The low exposure of the elections means that only students who managed to find information on their own are represented.
Each candidate is practically guaranteed the spot, even if they don’t represent the values of the school they are representing. It may seem over dramatic, but it almost happened in 2018 spring presidential election.
Two presidential and one vice presidential candidate withdrew from the race after offensive tweets surfaced, according to a past Maneater coverage. Brett Stover, an editor and anchor at KCOU, collected the tweets and shared them over his personal account.
These candidates only dropped out because there was an inclusive, large conversation among student body that provided a behavior check. The low student involvement in the current MSA election means that these candidates are less likely to have their power checked. Also, because the candidates are running uncontested the student body doesn’t exactly get the opportunity to vote out someone who doesn’t match their values.
Furthermore, the lack of information makes it difficult for students to know when elections are actually occurring. With the low publicity for the fall senatorial elections, that check on the candidates’ behavior doesn’t exist. This doesn’t mean that the fall candidates will fail to represent the student body. It means that it could happen more easily, and without student knowledge to deter it.
It is MSA’s responsibility to reach as many students as possible, even if that means some old-fashioned flyers. It is their job to inform all students of elections and opportunities to represent and serve the student body. It is their job, and it’s time that they do it.