Viewpoint: A tale of two elections

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    By Nick Nelson

    Life?s ironic, isn?t it?

    Take yesterday for example. The front page of The Daily Herald reported how UVSC students would vote Monday on whether to amend the school?s constitution to give the student body officers greater authority to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for speakers and other expenses.

    On the same day, on our campus, The Daily Universe reported on page one how BYUSA officials finally pulled the plug on an election already on life-support. The decision solidifies the already prevailing sentiment that everything that appears to be democratic about our student body government might be (dare I say it?) a farce.

    The months of preparation, the week of campaigning, the posters, the fliers, the buttons, the commercials and the happy handshakes ? all for naught. The election winner was ultimately decided by small group of administrators and students in a closed meeting.

    Adding insult to injury, BYUSA would not release the vote totals. Of course, logic explains why. What reason could BYUSA have for keeping the totals a secret unless the appointed ?winners? actually lost the popular vote?

    No one wants a repeat of Al Gore?s 2000 rant.

    The BYUSA elections truly bring out the worst in our student body. Because BYUSA won?t police the elections directly, the candidates are responsible for tattling on the infractions ? real or contrived ? of their rivals.

    BYUSA candidates are so restricted in the way they campaign (no Web sites, strict budget, no early campaigning) that there is little hope of winning by being truly original and inventive. Stick your neck out by creating a Web site, for example, and you get disqualified. So candidates lose hope of winning be standing out, realizing that it?s much easier to find some dirt on the opponent.

    ?If you can?t stand out, take ?em out,? becomes the mantra.

    Things get dirty and the image of BYU?s ?student service association? suffers.

    You may say, ?But doesn?t that describe politics in general? Doesn?t democracy depend on a free exchange of ideas and at times heated debate??

    Yes, of course. But because neither BYUSA nor its government can rightly be considered a democracy, the situation doesn?t demand such politicking.

    BYUSA administrators should simply hire the student leaders of BYUSA as part-time or full-time employees. No campaigns, not posters, no empty promises (at least none we as the student body have to hear).

    Either that, or expand the role of BYUSA on campus to make the organization truly democratic, with actual control over policies, programs and funds.

    5,123 students voted last week out of more than 30,000 ? and that turnout rate (of about 15 percent) was actually an improvement over last year!

    The impotence of the student government on this campus fosters a culture of consent in which apathy is cool and writing impassioned viewpoints like this one is not.

    Perhaps we can learn something about democracy from UVSC.

    It?s true that giving students authority to make big decisions about budget and programs is a little risky ? we might have a Michael Moore controversy of our own.

    But I guarantee more than 15 percent of UVSC?s student body will turn out to vote for their next student body president. And when they graduate, those students will be much better prepared to participate as members of a democracy because they will have already done it.

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