Various issues reflect SDSU’s democratic nature

Jenna Mackey, Photo Editor

Jenna Mackey, Photo Editor

Jenna Mackey, Photo Editor

by Anthony Berteaux, Assistant Opinion Editor

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The foundation of any fundamental democracy hinges on the right of citizen engagement. Should leadership fail to address and resolve relevant issues that affect their constituencies, then democracy itself will fall through. It’s only natural that the power of the government be derived from those it means to govern: the people.

San Diego State is no different.

After an eventful year of controversies, we’ve seen our leadership grappling with contentious issues that deeply affect us all. From sexual assault to the Student Success Fees and the mascot controversies, we’ve not only come to realize how relevant these issues are to us as educated students, but we’ve also come to see the power of the citizen voice.

It’s refreshing to know that some students still do care about how their school operates. After a dismal 9.9 percent voter turnout last year, the hope for student participation in democracy was bleak.

However, this year we’re seeing a change.

A minority of students have come together to bring their voice to their respective governments in hopes of change.

In light of renewed student participation, we are looking toward the next leaders with even greater scrutiny to make sure they represent the student voice. Will they address relevant and important issues that affect us all? How will they guide the discourse of these various controversies? These are the questions we should be asking.

However, before we look at the leaders, let’s look at the relevant issues at hand.

As aforementioned statistics should prove, the lack of student engagement and participation within our student body has been an ongoing issue that has yet to be addressed during this upcoming election. Last years’ 9.9 percent voter turnout exemplified this lack of participation, but it was also the lack of student participation in crucial affairs such as the Student Success Fee forums of last year, that have displayed the severe disconnect that students have within this campus.

The lack of student participation and understanding of campus-related issues is a critical hurdle that needs to be overcome.

As an editorial from The Daily Aztec about the lack of student turn out at the forums last year put it, “considering the powers of mass communication we have seen the administration put into effect time and time again to promote happenings on campus, it seems odd, and frankly unreasonable, that such strategies aren’t being put into play to inform students of an issue of this magnitude.”

This lack of communication has not gone unnoticed by Andrea Byrd, A.S. candidate for vice president of University Affairs.

“I believe that marketing is something we have to improve on as a school and as A.S,” he said. “It’s crucial that students remain informed about issues like Divestment and the mascot resolution, and engaged in these important issues.”

The lack of marketing and communication has lead for disconnect between students and the school, however it has also lead for a further gap between commuters and campus life. It seems imperative that for a campus of 25,000 commuters, that there is an extensive focus on integrating commuters into campus life.

Commuters tend to show low retention rates after freshman year because of their lack of connection to campus. In contrast, students who live on campus show higher GPAs and graduation rates. This demographic is a target to tackle in the upcoming elections.

Another critical issue is funding by the California State University system.

Currently, as noted by the Governor’s Budget Summary for the fiscal 2015-2016, Governor Brown proposed $119.5 million in general funds, alongside a one-time $25 million for degree-completion efforts.

However, this number is $97 million short of the amount of money that the Board of Trustees proposed necessary for the state system to operate at full capacity.

Because of budget cuts and further inadequate funds, students are paying the price. In fact, only 17.3 percent of freshman will complete their undergraduate education within four years because of the lack of funding.

This issue was addressed by vice president of external relations candidate Cameron Lyons during a debate.

“We need to be advocating, at the state level, for more funding,” he said. “I think we should be asking for $150 million (more) for all of us. Split between 23 CSU campuses, I believe $97 million is not enough money.”

Not only is money an issue, but we also have to address the topic of sexual assault.

On a national level, sexual assault has been a contentious issue for college campuses in enforcing measures against it to aid in campus safety. Our campus is no different, sexual assault remains to be an issue that must be handled adequately by the next leader of A.S.

Chelsea Baer, A.S. presidential candidate, is taking an educational stance against sexual assault.

“One of the largest issues is sexual assault,” she said. “This is a problem that hits too close to home and must be stopped. Through continued educational programming and workshops, I believe that we can continue making strides against sexual assault and provide better support for survivors. Spreading awareness and providing assistance is vital to combating this serious issue.

All of these issues and others un-addressed, are issues that we should be continuously speaking up about. They affect us all, and in a democracy, it’s our civil duty to practice citizenship skills to address pressing issues that affect our fellow Aztecs.

Democracy is a two-way street, and it depends on your participation, as well as mine.

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