An uninformed student body creates a substance-less campaign season


Kendal Manns, Editor-in-Chief

With voting for Alabama State University’s next Student Government Association (SGA) administration just a few days away, there are a slew of opinions out there about how campaign season, election procedures and overall interactions of SGA is handled. In this editorial, I want to highlight the student body’s lack of knowledge about how all of this is supposed to happen.
Anyone who comes onto the campus during the two weeks of campaign season will see many posters with various themes from pixies to ball players and even Black Panther. I have heard from some older faculty and staff that this is all “pageantry” and has no real substance or impact on someone’s ability to lead the student body. On one hand, I agree that themes have nothing to do with one’s ability to lead. On the other hand, how else is the student body supposed to vote for them?
Allow me to explain further. In my three years at Alabama State University, I have witnessed many examples of the student body being misinformed or flat out uninformed of what the SGA does here. I have interviewed some students around campus and asked questions about certain members of the executive board (the most recognizable figures in the association) only to be met with blank stares and asked “who is that?”
In my time covering the SGA, I have also heard several complaints that the students do not know or understand the role of an individual member or the association as a whole. Taking that into account, how does one campaign to an uniformed student body?
In “Media and Society” by James Curran and David Hesmondhalgh, they analyze a 1996 study done by Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter on American citizens and their knowledge of the political world. According to the book, “informed Americans are more likely than less informed citizens to participate in politics, to have attitudes aligned to their interest, and to vote for political representatives consistent with their attitudes.”
Applying that thinking to the SGA elections, if students are uninformed (which many of them seem to be) what are they going to base their vote on? Popularity and pageantry. And that is what I feel the SGA campaign season and elections have become. Different organizations and affiliations carry candidates to their crown, not detailed structured plans and goals. I do not blame the candidates for doing what they are doing.
Having the opportunity to speak to some of them, I see they have some good things they want to do. None of that matters if students do not know anything past the fact that these individuals are running for certain positions.
Events like the debates also suffer because of this lack of knowledge. Students (the small number of them that show up) ask surface-level questions a majority of the time due to their lack of knowledge about the ins and outs of SGA and its three branches. This creates a lot of problems and takes away the opportunity to see how the candidates respond to challenging questions. It also makes it harder to tell who is the more worthy candidate.
We as a university have to do a better job of making students aware and keeping them informed on what the SGA does. This need transcends just the SGA as well. I believe it is also the responsibility of the administration to make understanding certain amounts of government mandatory for all students.
This type of change can also have an impact on students long after they cross the stage. Students will be more interested in truly understanding politics when it comes to voting for their country’s new leaders. No longer will students be prime targets for manipulation as is custom in the political world. Because of the foundation given to them in their time at Alabama State University, they will have the knowledge and desire to be confident in choosing those in charge of the entire country.
So the next time that campaign season and election season comes around, my hope is that the student body will be more informed on what the SGA roles are, what the SGA Constitution says and what can actually be done on campus. When that happens then the candidates can include even more substance into their campaigns because people will care about it more than the pageantry.