As SGA elections approach, the issue of senator retention comes back into the spotlight. This year, there are a total of 38 open seats. The ballot opens Sept. 5 at 8 a.m. and stays open until Sept. 6 at 5 p.m. Students are able to vote through their MyCharleston accounts.
Before the first Senate meeting has even occurred, SGA already faces a problem with senator retention, an issue the organization has seen in the past. Out of 48 Senate seats, including the eight alternates, only 10 were filled by the spring election. Because freshmen are elected in the fall, this still leaves 26 open seats never filled back in the spring semester.
If there is not a full Senate by the first meeting, Senators can appoint students to Senate without running in the election. According to SGA President Erica Arbetter, the organization is “trying to stay away from appointments this year and start off with a full Senate.”
The likelihood of a full Senate on its first meeting is low. There are 21 freshmen names on the ballot, but only six sophomores and seven juniors running. There are no seniors seeking office.
Earlier this semester, SGA hosted several information sessions for students wishing to run for Senate. Most of the participants in the sessions were either freshmen or transfer students, said Arbetter.
According to Arbetter, last year proved less fortunate for SGA when it came to senator retention than the year before. Arbetter attributed less involvement of senators to the impeachment bill where former SGA President Ross Kressel was scrutinized for an inappropriate, private twitter account. While the bill did not receive enough votes for Kressel to even face the Honor Board, Arbetter said the drama caused by the situation intimidated incoming senators and discouraged others from joining the organization.
Aside from events that occurred last year, Arbetter said this year she hopes SGA will be different. “I want SGA to be as drama free as possible and make it an enjoyable experience,” Arbetter said. “Elliott (Wright) did a good job clearing the debris and we have a clean slate this year and I can see this year being really successful.”
In order to keep students motivated and involved with Senate, Arbetter said the organization is trying to push for a new perspective.
“Our whole theme is ‘Team SGA.’ If you look at it like a team and not as an obligation or time commitment, you’ll stay for the team,” Arbetter said.
In addition to “Team SGA,” Arbetter said she is working on finding upperclassmen and students enrolled in political science courses. Getting upperclassmen involved is an ongoing effort for SGA, said Arbetter.
“It comes down to finding people who are motivated,” Arbetter said. “We need to take ourselves seriously and if we do that, hopefully that will permeate to the rest of the student body.”