Students should elect our president

Students+should+elect+our+president

By Thomas Dowling

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend Vice President Joe Biden’s “It’s On Us” rally. But in the face of Mr. Biden’s oratorical prowess, something stuck out to me even more than his speaking ability.

Prefacing Mr. Biden’s remarks was the traditional long list of speakers, each introducing the next. It was the last speaker that caught my eye, more so than Vice President Biden.

Student Body President Mitch Dickey delivered the last remarks and introduced Mr. Biden. I couldn’t help butwonder, “Who is this guy?” I don’t remember voting for the man calling himself the voice for the student body.

At the University of Illinois, our student body president is not elected by the students. Instead, an internal vote occurs in the Illinois Student Senate. This creates a barrier between our lead student representative and the actual student body.

Just look at the implications of the title “Student Body President.” It naturally implies that the president was selected by our student body. According to the student senate constitution, the student body president “publicly represents the views expressed by the Illinois Student Senate as a whole.” This is a critical point because the president is our public voice, but as they were not elected by us, lacks our permission to speak on our behalf.

While the nameplate might scream legitimacy, the process does not.

More importantly, the student body president is the only student government representative known by many students. Students don’t necessarily notice the actions of their student senator, but they do hear about the actions of the student body president.

If students could vote for their president, they would be more likely to vote in student elections, especially as many have complained about student’s lack of involvement in student government.

Furthermore, student government is the most effective way to express dissatisfaction with University policy. Their actions play a critical role in the way the University operates. Actions such as this should not be unilateral, and enforcing students’ right to vote for their president allows them to exercise control over the process.

I hit the Quad to try and discover how much students knew about their student government and found my hypothesis was indeed correct.

I had the opportunity to talk with Timothy Hurley, freshman in Engineering, Jackson Shedelbower, junior in LAS and Helen Enda, freshman in DGS. All three were unable to name the senator who was elected to represent their college, but were able to name Mitch Dickey as the University’s student body president. A position with such visibility should be accountable to us, not the Illinois Student Senate.

I reached out to Student Body President Mitch Dickey asking for his position on the issue. In his e-mail Dickey said, “I do think the {student body president] and the [student body vice president] should be elected as a ticket by the whole student body.”

Dickey continued by saying, “We have been looking for a new student government constitution that would have this be the case for a few years,” referring to a constitution that would implement direct election for the student body president and vice president.

I am glad that the Illinois Student Senate is planning on embracing a more populist approach to student government, but I am worried that this has been a plan that has been in the works for quite sometime. Rather than taking quick, decisive action, the Illinois Student Senate has been resting on its heels. Considering this beneficial rule has been put off for a few years, the hesitation or potential logrolling needs to end so as not to prevent change entirely.

We need to emphasize student body accountability above all else. Our leaders need to be elected by us and nobody else. That is the only way we will have a truly representative student government. I plan on holding Student Body President Mitch Dicky and the ISS accountable to making these changes, and hopefully, so will the rest of the University.

Thomas is a freshman in LAS.

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