A.S. Elections and the Trouble with Democracy
by Dawn Marie Howell


It is not unheard of for a few people to preside over the concerns of the many. As a matter of fact, that dynamic is what our great democracy hinges on. In order to elect our Commander in Chief, it only requires 51% of however many American citizens decide to get off of their butts and vote. The same is true of the AS Elections that swept over our fair campus recently and have since left considerable ripples and waves of doubt throughout those political parties involved. The boisterous OPP bagged the vast majority of available positions, an outcome that is leaving Student Voice constituents with a bad taste in their mouths. Some talk of an OPP/RHA conspiracy, others of misrepresented campaign rules, and still others of discrimination and bias and god-knows-what-else. Whatever is the root of the controversy, a sad fact remains: few Gauchos either know about this nor do they seem to care.

Over the years, I have heard fellow Gauchos grumbling over the futility of our AS Elections. Namely, a good deal of students see no reason why only one-fifth of our population decides on matters which affect the entire community. Unfortunately, AS only asks for a twenty-percent voter turnout, which keeps this cycle going.

Although I have voted in every AS Election since I started here, I can see why many Gauchos stay out of it. The apathy that settles over our campus acts as a frightening echo to the general apathy of our nation. Though we have a contentious and inspiring battle going on between the two Democratic candidates, most of us can no longer keep up with the polls simply out of exasperation. Americans have, through evolution, lost the attention span required for democracy. It seems the same is especially true for our bustling campus population.

This does not necessarily mean that those who do not vote are callous. The fact remains that A.S. and all of its myriad committees elude the common Gaucho. I recently checked out their website and found myself inundated with all the different committee pages and mission statements. The sheer volume of programs is immense. It makes sense that Joe Gaucho would be petrified about voting someone into a position on a committee he’s never heard of.

And as for the election controversy, it only further muddies the waters. As David Preciado, a defeated candidate for Student Voice, related, “A lot of students don’t vote because we don’t do enough outreach. These committees are making decisions that affect all of us and we need to definitely stress that.” Preciado, a first year and veteran committee member, also told me of his frustrations regarding the election quagmire, “I just feel that people are simply trying to win a title. A title means nothing if you do nothing with it…I thought elections were only this dramatic in high school. It’s very dis-empowering.”

To gain the opposing perspective, I interviewed a member of RHA who has chosen to remain anonymous. According to the interviewee, Student Voice had more than enough information to campaign effectively, but did not pay attention to the clarifications made in the initial election meeting. My source still recognizes that both parties had a fair share in what has come to be a rather heated controversy. In a similar vein to Preciado’s statements, the interviewee likewise felt discouraged by the fallout of the election. “[Our elections] are just a microcosmic representation of what happens on a wider scale. It is discouraging and I can understand why students stay out of it. I definitely plan on staying out of it next year.”

I cannot help but feel exactly the same way. It is truly sad that the young, passionate, and hardworking people from both parties have exhibited such an immense level of pettiness and disunity. After all, Associated Students is meant to serve the interests and represent the diverse viewpoints within our multifaceted campus community. It is strange to me that we have a two-party system even though it is not expressly called for or entirely necessary.

As we have seen in these past eight years, political partisanship can have an extremely detrimental effect on society at large. Witnessing it on the smaller scale of UCSB only attests to how pervasive this binary relationship truly is. In essence, the struggle between the two parties on campus only demonstrates that we lack responsibility, tact, and foresight in our societal leaders as well as our student ones. It is a shame that such a scandal can denigrate the efforts and laudable successes of these candidates and cloud over their accomplishments.

Is this merely the trouble inherent in democracy? Or have we lost track of what the word really means? At any rate, what has happened in the week since the elections has greatly disparaged this Gaucho from voting in AS elections ever again, especially if such grumblings are the result.