On Thursday, April 25, the Bellevue College Associated Student Government opened voting for ASG candidates with the annual ASG Barbecue. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the courtyard in front of the Library Media Center was filled with booths from local vendors, BC clubs and the ASG candidates.
In exchange for their vote, students were given a free lunch of a hamburger and soda. Candidates walked up and down the lines, greeting students before they cast their vote, passing out buttons, candy and restating their platform, as well as listening to students
“We’ve had a remarkably high turnout,” said ASG Staff Advisor Brandon Lueken, who also coordinated the event. Student and staff volunteers had been on campus as early as 6:30 a.m. to help set up tables and food.
However, despite the tables, signs, speeches and even a flash mob, many students remained oblivious as to what the event was about. BC student Roscoe Leiner said he had never heard of the ASG and didn’t know what he was supposed to be voting for. “They’re terrible at educating students about what’s going on,” he said.
Many of the candidates acknowledged Leiner’s concerns about student involvement. In fact, Campus Life and Events Representative candidate Melody Salcedo said the lack of school spirit and student involvement was one of the first things she noticed about BC. “There are over 90 clubs here and many students don’t even know there’s a single club and I think that’s really sad,” said Salcedo. “We just need to help target them in a different way other than posters.”
“I think the main problem is presence. I don’t think the ASG is present enough. If you try to say ASG isn’t doing anything, you’re not paying attention to ASG,” said Alex Clark, who is running for the Sustainability and Social Responsibility Representative position. To remedy this, Clark said that he wanted to implement biweekly forums where students can voice their opinions directly to the student government. “It would be a lot of work, but there’s nothing more that we need right now than student voice, because once we know what students are needing and feeling, we can provide for them.”
Leslie Mayo, one of the candidates for the Vice President of Finance and Communications position, agreed with Clark: “There are a lot of students that haven’t been involved and have been coming here for a year, a year and a half and that can’t happen. We have to change that. And that is part of ASG too; we need to go and introduce ourselves and say, ‘I’m your student government, I’ll work with you and for you.’”
Candidates talked to students not only to educate them about the ASG, but to educate them about their position on issues and sway their vote. While many students didn’t know what was going on, many were receptive to learning about BC’s student government and giving input.
“I want to ask more questions, I’m finding,” said Zawdie Stephens-Terry, one of the presidential candidates. “I want to know more about students want to see next year.”
“I’ve been getting a lot of input,” said said Andrea Torres, one of the candidates for the Vice President of Student Affairs and Pluralism position. “A lot of students don’t know what ASG is, and that’s really sad. I hope we can change that. [But] hearing these students and knowing they support you and what you’re doing to improve campus really makes me happy.”
Current ASG President Takhmina Dzhuraeva kicked off the candidate’s speeches: “I have another twelve people who help me do my job every day, and that is to go down to Olympia to fight for our tuition, extend our library hours, and reduce your parking garage fees. Every day we work on behalf of you. We are your student voice. We talk to the administration, we talk to teachers, and today we would like to hear who you want for student government for next year.”
Dr. David Rule, BC’s president, also came down to support the candidates and enjoy the food. As a faculty member, Rule can’t vote or endorse candidates, but he was happy watching democracy happen on his campus: “I like the elected student government because I think it’s just much more representative. I think it’s the process. I’ve heard complaints at other institutions about not getting a large turnout; getting 20 or 30 percent, but then I point out that nationally, that’s often times what you see, too. Part of having an election is learning the civic responsibility of coming out to vote.”
During the event, student volunteers were also fundraising for the Student Resource Network, a new program to help homeless BC students. In total, volunteers raised over $250 for students in need.
The second ASG candidate debate will take place on May 2, and the last day to vote will be on May 3. The new ASG will be announced on May 6.