We can’t hear you

All of the dead space on this page represents the unheard student voices in last week’s Undergraduate Student Senate elections.

Only about 10 percent of Kent State undergraduates voted.

Only half that number voted on the referendum.

The newly elected senators will only affect Kent State for roughly a school year.

This newly passed referendum, however, will affect generations of Kent State students and programming.

And we’re pissed.

When we sat down for our editorial board meeting last Wednesday, we were in shock that it had even passed. More upsetting was that even though so few students voted, USS would probably tell us that this was what the students wanted. How can you say that when such a small percentage voted?

We’re mad that we didn’t get so angry about the logistics behind the referendum earlier. We’re mad that All Campus Programming Board, who was that angry, didn’t do more to educate students in order to stop it. We’re mad that more students didn’t vote to at least prove us wrong, that this was something they actually did want passed.

What we’re most mad about, however, is how the system is forcing students’ hands.

The charter will go into effect Fall 2008, as long as the Board of Trustees approves it April 25 – if there is no student-driven attempt in the form of a petition to stop it.

The referendum will let USS expand, adding senators to represent areas of the university, such as individual colleges and student interests such as international students.

It will also absorb ACPB, a formerly independent student organization, and put a popularly elected director in charge, rather than the organization’s president. Maybe that sounds like an injustice that would only affect members of the organization, but think again: ACPB has planned most all of the larger events on campus for years. Think FlashFest. Think Dane Cook. Think Tavis Smiley. Think Battle of the Bands. Think Bob Saget.

ACPB helped plan all of those.

It would have been difficult on voting day to read the full document of changes to be instituted. The referendum wasn’t posted on FlashLine and there weren’t any university mailings explaining the possible changes.

There were a few Facebook groups, and several Stater stories. On USS Executive Director Ross Miltner’s Web page, the referendum was discussed, but certain parts were downplayed – the part affecting ACPB didn’t mention ACPB at all.

And now a 67-vote difference of such a small number of student votes will change how student dollars are spent and programming is instituted. That’s right, it passed 638 to 571. That’s hardly enough of a margin for something that will change every aspect of how a program at Kent State is funded, organized and planned. USS should not have the power to change ACPB’s constitution and remove its autonomy – the fact that it can is a whole separate injustice we don’t have the space to address today.

Furthermore, as the referendum reads, the new director of programming will take on the role of senator and ACPB president. That individual, in theory, will be more powerful than the USS executive director as this director will be able to appoint the members of its board, creating a dictatorial role that we can only see resulting in poorly represented programming.

That director will be popularly elected – and if this year’s election results are any indication of elections to come, most of the senators will be voted in as a result of a high-schoolesque popularity contest.

ACPB currently has a system of checks and balances – according to its constitution, the president must have served for at least a year in a leadership role in ACPB or another student organization. The president is picked by a panel of individuals representing groups such as BUS and PRIDE!Kent, who know the organization and what it needs to work the best.

Seeing how important his or her job is, that check and balance is necessary to appropriately operate a group that determines most of the university’s programming. The new referendum not only gets rid of that system of checks and balances because the president will be popularly elected, but it will give the director of programming more responsibility and influence than the ACPB president’s current job description – that’s way too much of a risk, not only because of the programming, but because of the portion of tuition dollars you are submitting to these programming groups.

We’re calling for a petition from the students, hopefully to be started by the current ACPB. If 8 percent (approximately 1,920) of the undergraduate population signs, the referendum process could be reversed.

This is necessary to change the portion that is unfair. Or at least it is necessary to review the charter, better educate students on what it means and come to a better-represented conclusion of whether to continue with its goals or not.

There needs to be more student awareness and student opinion on what the referendum will do. Unfortunately, not enough students participated in last week’s elections for enacting it to be remotely fair.

We’re also asking for a closer look at the passage of the referendum by the Board of Trustees. If the board decides to approve the referendum during its last meeting, the new charter will take effect in the 2008-2009 school year.

The whole purpose of student government is to represent and work to help those of us without important senator titles or sway in how the university operates. It is to benefit every undergraduate student voice on campus. USS is failing to do that if it presses on with the referendum.

We feel duped, and we’re mad. Five signatures, five voices – 1,915 more to go.