Last year, over 85 percent of UNC students didn’t vote in their student elections. Less than 15% got a say in administration, funding, parking and external appointments. Every day, I see UNC students working to be heard by those in power. But how can we ask for more seats at the table if we are not even using the ones we already have?
As acting chair of the UNC Board of Elections, I often hear people tell me that student elections do not seem important, or that student government itself seems like just another way for PoliSci students to keep busy. In reality, UNC’s student government is extremely powerful. Its members have unparalleled access to administration and funding. The students we elect get to talk to deans and provosts most of us do not have access to. They get to review hardship parking and decide what student projects and organizations get funding. Long story short, they get a huge say in who gets what.
When I talk to people about voting, another comment I often get is that they do not know who to vote for. They say they would rather not vote than vote without being adequately informed. What these folks fail to realize is that candidates put their platforms (short, 300 words max) both in a Voters Guide and directly on the ballot. Even if a student were to click on the ballot without any knowledge of the candidates whatsoever, they would be able to learn as they voted — and still be done within five minutes. Super dedicated students could even opt to attend one of many student body presidential debates being held by various student organizations (the Board of Elections included!).
This year, student elections will take place all day Feb. 14. On that day, we as UNC students will elect our Student Body President, who will sit for the next year on the Board of Trustees. We will elect our Residence Hall Association President and Carolina Athletic Association President–people who will affect how we live and how we play. Rising seniors like me will elect our Senior Class President and Vice President, who will plan events for us and speak at commencement in front of our families. Undergraduates will elect senators that will determine funding for our organizations and advocate for us before UNC administration.
If there is one thing I learned walking around UNC and seeing the political rallies, protests, advocacy groups and overabundance of chalk, it is that UNC students have opinions. They want to make a difference. But many fail to recognize student government as an avenue to make those differences.
Last year, over 85 percent of UNC students did not vote in their student elections. This year, we will change that number. We will send the message that we care about the students that represent us and the structures that govern us. On February 14th, at 12:01 a.m., check your student email. Click on the link. Vote.
- Sophie van Duin, UNC class of '25