UNC student government faces a crisis of legitimacy. Not counting the run-off election, less than half as many students voted for a student body president candidate this year as did last year. It’s hard not to attribute that turnout to students’ disenchantment with the whole institution of student government.
We don’t think it’s a coincidence that this dive in voter participation followed a year in which an administrative mandate led to a split between undergraduate and graduate government, and the campaign for the student body president was marred by inter-campaign legal feuding. Setting current travails aside, UNC student government has a proud history. SBP Paul Dickson, for example, played a role in helping to break the Speaker Ban in the 1960s.
The institution is worth fixing. So, now that the dust has settled — inauguration of our new student government and student constitution takes place tomorrow — let’s take stock and try to move forward.
We have a new constitution separating the graduate and professional and undergraduate student bodies. Though this board has major issues with the way graduate and undergraduate student leaders squabbled and then caved to administrative pressure to draft a new constitution, we see a silver lining to our current situation: With a fresh constitution passed, graduate and undergraduate student leaders can focus on more pressing campus issues, like advocacy on immigration and sexual assault.
Student government can also help turn over a new leaf by improving its management of elections. As this board has already suggested, student government should prioritize reforming the Board of Election’s rules to avoid a repeat of this year’s pettiness. A good first step would be to make disqualifying a candidate more difficult.