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Volume 68, Issue 109, Wedenesday, March 12, 2003


Campus likely to vote 'huh?'

By Ray Hafner
Senior Staff Writer

Who are you voting for in the student elections?

"I have no idea," said Nalita Sutcharitkul, a junior chemical engineering major.

Are you familiar with the candidates?

"I think oneis a girl," said David Burman, a junior hotel and restaurant management student.

Have you been following the Student Government Association at all?

"Iim just apathetic at this point," said Chris Hartschuh, a sophomore business major.

Voting begins today for Student Government Association elections, in which there are only five contested positions. This year, SGA is offering computerized voting.

The Daily Cougar file photo

All across campus, several factors, including a lack of contested races, no clear issues and an abbreviated campaign season, have combined this year to create one of the most low-profile SGA elections in recent history.

"I think this happens from time to time in student government associations, especially when you have incumbents," Director of Campus Activities Zack Coapland said.

While President Dawona Miller faces a challenge from Nick Somarakis in the presidential race, the vast majority of seats feature only one candidate. 

Last year only about 4 percent of students voted, down from previous years. Coapland, who oversees SGA but does not participate directly, said he did not expect to see a high turnout this year.

A group of students relaxing in the Honors College agreed they rarely heard about SGA accomplishing anything. Many said they had no intention of voting.

"The one time you hear about them is when theyire annoying you on the sidewalk," Burman said. Burman was referring to the town halls SGA holds monthly, usually in the PGH Breezeway.

Officials and members of SGA said the organization has been reaching out to students and has had a busy year.

"This administration has been pretty vigilant about having their town halls," said Coapland, citing the town halls as an example of SGA reaching out to students. Coapland said student apathy was hardly unique to SGA.

"Weire having (Frontier Fiesta) next week and many students donit know about that," he said.

"I think many people are not interested," said Zimuzo Agim, a business senator running unopposed for re-election. Agim disputed the notion that SGA does not take a visible role and get in touch with students, citing its town halls and e-mail alerts that told students about the meetings.

Coapland also listed the electronic communication and SGAis Web site, though it has not been updated since last semester, as methods of communicating with students.

SGAis substance has also improved over the past year, Coapland said. He said that meetings with deans and other officials have improved SGAis relationship with the administration. By holding meetings in different locations on campus, they are also increasing their exposure.

All organizations are challenged to reach out to the student body, especially at UH where working students face an even greater time crunch than elsewhere.

"(SGA has) done a great job of re-establishing credibility, so maybe their next focus should be on reaching out to a more diverse student population," Coapland said.

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