Students will choose new leaders this week, but it’s not much of a contest.
Kevin Struxness, a political science junior, is the lone candidate for Student Senate president. Down ballot, there’s an unopposed race for treasurer and six candidates running for 11 senate seats. The only competitive election is between secondary education junior Austen McFarren and Joao “Johnny” Cunha, an anthropology junior, for the vice presidency.
“It is disappointing that we have a limited amount of candidates running but the nice part about it is it leaves room for incoming freshman,” said Thom Beneke, Student Senate vice president and elections co-chairman. “There are plenty more oppurtunities for students to join.”
Senate bylaws also allow for write-in campaigns as long as they follow certain constitutional guidelines (web.mnstate.edu/ studentsenate/constitution).
Yesterday, students started voting online at web.mnstate.edu/ studentsenate. Polls close Friday. Student Senate will provide tables with laptops at selected places around campus this week so students can vote in between classes.
Following a meeting to ratify results, the senate will announce winners next Friday.
As president, Struxness said, he wants to increase the visibility of Student Senate and improve communication between student organizations.
While noting it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to endorse Struxness, associate vice president for academic affairs Denise Gorsline said she’s been impressed with the candidate as a student senator. She served with Struxness on the freshman year seminar task force and appreciated how he sought opinion from a group of students before reporting back to the committee.
“He doesn’t just give his own opinion,” Gorsline said. “To me, that’s a good sign for him to be president.”
Beneke said it’s unusual to have an uncontested presidency, but interest in student government “really varies from year to year.”
Social and Natural Sciences Student Senator Clay Schwartzwalter had announced a presidential bid on social media but wasn’t allowed on the ballot.
Elections co-chairwoman Jessica Bernier said she couldn’t reveal why he couldn’t run because it might violate Schwartzwalter’s privacy rights.
“It’s not that he doesn’t want to run,” Bernier said.
Schwartzwalter did not return Facebook and email requests for comment. He is running for another term on senate.
An off-campus senator, Cunha said he wants to have “more of a leadership position to get more accomplished and hopefully make campus better for everyone.”
The public safety employee said he deeply understands what is going on at MSUM and wants to delve into tuition, budget and fee issues as vice president.
“I want to go more in-depth to make sure students are really getting what they pay for,” he said.
Cunha said students should vote for him because, “I honestly just want to do the best for them.”
McFarren, an arts and humanities senator, said he’s running for vice president because, “I’ d just like to be more involved in making bigger decisions.”
He said he would like to start a memo on Dragon news that would promote two organizations in need of volunteers each week.
“There’s lots of students on campus that want to volunteer, and I would like to make those opportunities more visible for students,” he said.
McFarren also said he would work to improve academic advising.
“I have a really good work ethic, and I want to use that for the students,” he said.
Last year, only 488 students voted for Student Senate president – and that election was competitive.
“Nobody cares about Student Senate elections anyway,” said Claire Azure, a theater senior, reflecting the prevailing view around campus.
But students should care, administrators and student government leaders agreed.
“We have a say in what students end up paying at the end of the day so it’s very important for students to realize that they have a say through the senators,” Bernier said.
Although administration listens to all students, senators or not, the official consultation about university policy goes through the senate, Gorsline said.
She told students, “You should care about who is your official voice.”
BY BRYCE HAUGEN