Every academic year, each of us contributes $200 to collectively fund Associated Students of UC San Diego’s (ASUCSD) $6 million budget. Besides what’s set aside for the Sun God Festival, many of us don’t quite know where that money goes, nor do we know the people in charge of it. As AS election season winds down, the vast majority of campus seems completely disinterested in our AS candidates. Between the lack of student knowledge and low voter turnout, it is clear that student government at UCSD has struggled to form a cohesive system that can regularly uphold free, fair, and competitive elections.
AS elections have been plagued with controversy for four consecutive years. In 2016, both the AS President and the AS Vice President of Campus Affairs ran unopposed. The following year, The Triton’s Editorial Board rescinded our endorsement of an AS Presidential candidate over an inappropriate photo. 2018 marked the first time in ten years that only a single party ran for office—and all senate elections ran unopposed. Now, as we head into the 2019 AS Election, the AS President and Vice President of Campus Affairs are once again running unopposed. In addition to the lack of competitive elections, this year’s campaign season witnessed several counts of campaign violations and academic disqualifications. Consequently, all of the remaining Tritons United candidates chose to re-register as independent candidates.
In light of this controversy, we believe it’s more important than ever to scrutinize the actions of AS candidates and officials. Student turnout in university elections has not passed 30 percent in the past three years; meanwhile, student turnout in national and local elections has risen in record numbers. Moreover, UCSD students have held protests on tuition hikes, anti-Blackness, gun violence, and abortion laws; UC laborers have striked against wage inequality four times this past year alone.
We’re not a school that shies away from political action. So when it comes to choosing the leaders who will fight to protect our interests and well-being on a scale larger than any individual student can, why does the student body shrug its shoulders?
Some students may be apathetic because they believe AS institutions to be completely ineffective. However, this is not always the case. AS officials passionate about the student community have created powerful change. For example, 2018–2019 Vice President of External Affairs (EVP) and UC Students Association (UCSA) President Caroline Siegel-Singh, spearheaded the initiative to decrease tuition and lobbied for more funding for higher education in California. Before Siegel-Singh, 2017–2018 EVP Refilwe Gqajela chaired UCSA and established the AS Labor Commission, strengthening student labor solidarity by working with UC unions during protests.
In stark contrast, EVP candidates this year have failed to demonstrate a basic understanding of the position, leading The Triton to have no EVP endorsement for the first time. Low voter turnout and a general lack of investment in AS election outcomes provide little incentive for officials to formulate well thought-out platforms and follow-through on their campaign promises. When candidates don’t respect the gravity of their office, they directly threaten our tuition, state funding, and basic needs programs.
UCSD students deserve free, fair, and competitive elections. We didn’t see that this year, but we cannot let that stop civil engagement on campus. Nothing will change if we consistently are left with the choice between abstaining from our civic rights or voting for uncontested positions. And nothing will change unless we, as individual students, pay close attention to our incoming ASUCSD body. Vote this week for your college council representatives, senators, and executives. Look at candidates’ platforms, and in the fall, check if any aspect of those platforms are going into effect.
For this year, it’s all we can do. Next year, however, run for office. It’s easy to remain apathetic and bemoan the lack of competitive elections, but if we truly care about UCSD and want to improve matters, we as a student body need to get involved. We have leaders on this campus. Come forward and step up, UCSD.
Correction: This article was updated on April 10, 2019 at 1:45 p.m. A previous version of this article stated that each student contributes $1,200 to fund ASUCSD, when they only contribute $200. We apologize for this error.