AUSG Elections are here. Let’s talk.
By Valentina Fernández, AU Student Government President
When I was elected Student Government President last spring, I was excited to shake things up. I was excited to hold administrators accountable to listen to the student experience. I was excited to bridge the gap between what I had heard in some of the university’s most powerful rooms and the experiences that low-income students like myself faced every day.
But my excitement was justified; I was prepared. I had a track record of bringing everyday students to the ears of trustees, university leadership, and more. I was the only candidate to run on a comprehensive, student-centered platform. It was more than just a list of “wants.”
During the campaign, my credibility was put into question. Most hurtfully, other candidates positioned themselves to comment on my personal identity — most likely, an attempt to dismiss how I didn’t just act on issues during student government campaigns, but I lived them every day of my life.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t just during election season. It also stuck with me throughout my term. Some students and colleagues, specifically, some men whose work I was critical about brushed away my presence in an attempt to shed light on their own. Other times, events organized by my team to benefit inclusion and equity efforts or even financial transparency were not prioritized.
I don’t think those actions were made fully out of ill-intent or out of complete sexism or racism. I candidly believe that simply put, most members of student government don’t understand why the topics I was prioritizing were important to the student body. Many simply didn’t have the personal experiences that reflect the challenges that first-generation, low-income students like myself did. And most, unfortunately, they didn’t have a desire to change that anytime soon.
I will never pretend to be perfect. There are times where I wish I would have been more thoughtful about how I managed the role. However, there are also times when I wish I stood up to the outdated, unrealistic rules and dynamics that prevented the work that matters most from being the center of the conversation. Simply put, even the most vocal people, those that advocate for representation and are the first to draft performative posts on social media — are also the first to drown out voices that do not agree with them the second the doors close. More times than not, the tradeoff for their behavior results in less focus on the issues that matter most — or the issues that matter most to vulnerable and marginalized students on this campus.
This is exactly why our campus needs YOU to run for Student Government right now. Our student government needs leaders that understand why the issues discussed during campaign season are issues that need to be discussed year round. Our students deserve leaders that prioritize this in their work —not as talking points when Spring elections arise.
If you are ready to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable students on our campus, then I am asking you to run. Whether you are a first-generation, low income, LGBTQ+, Black, LatinX, just to name a few, your experiences will shape the conversations that are prioritized.
Throughout my term, I consistently measured my success in any given space by asking myself two questions: If I were not present in that space, would the conversations regarding the student experience have taken place? Am I challenging the university to approach change as an opportunity to finally speak to communities that have never felt spoken to?
If you know that you are willing to measure the success of rooms you walk into by answering yes to those questions, then our campus needs you. Our campus doesn’t need students that will come around for performative activism around the time that SG elections come around. Our campus needs students that are willing to commit even in hidden rooms when there is no glamour in a student media news article or a social media post.
And if you choose not to run, I understand. However, please stay engaged. During this upcoming election season, please listen with a critical ear. Election season is an incredible time for privileged students who have done little-to-no work to attempt to discredit students that face serious issues every day. As a student body, listen intently and question how your candidates will advocate when no one is looking.
The final mandatory information session is tonight, Monday, March 4, 2019, at 8:00 p.m. in Kerwin 1. It is strongly recommended that all candidates meet in person with the student they are aiming to replace. See a complete election timeline here.