Even before Jordan Koch is inaugurated as the newest student body president regent this April, her victory symbolizes significant changes within Student Government. It may have seemed like a quite election year–with only about five percent of all students casting votes- but SG-UNO’s latest slate of winning candidates, specifically Koch, signal the emergence of four trends.
1) The single-horse race
Koch and Adam Mackenzie, her vice president, won the election with a nearly 600-vote landslide. This statement typically would be something to splash across a headline; however, for the second year in a row, the winning president and vice president ran unopposed.
“At UNO, the students that take the time to get involved are in so many organizations that they don’t have time to take on anything else. That really limits the pool of candidates interested in running,” said Ben Jager, Student Government’s advisor. “It’s such a demanding job. To do it well, you can’t really be extremely involved in much else.”
While both Koch and Mackenzie are strong candidates, with clear goals and amble outside experience in other organizations on campus, they easily slid into their new positions. Not only does this change the annual Student Government Presidential Debate between the two candidates into a discussion, but it gives voters only one option on the ballot, limiting the impact of their vote.
Students could also write in an option, and 92 voters chose to do so this year.
“Next year, I really hope it’s not an unopposed race,” Koch said. “It makes for a fun election, and it gives students more choices and a better opportunity to have their voice heard.”
With this in mind, Koch made sure that her unopposed race wouldn’t leave students silent. From housing boards to fraternities and sororities, Koch and Mackenzie talked to over 20 organizations before elections to receive ideas about projects to tackle during their administration.
2) Glass ceiling shattered
Koch’s win marks the fourth time in a row that a woman has been elected to student body president, shattering the glass ceiling and proving UNO is bounds ahead of its sister institutions.
“I think women in this position are going to have just a bit of a different perception than men, and it’s important because women’s voices need to be heard at Board of Regents meetings,” Koch said.
One of the responsibilities the president is tasked with is representing the campus in Lincoln, Neb. at Board of Regents meetings, an organization that for much of last year and the previous year was made up of all men, except for UNO’s student body president.
Following Liz O’ Conner, Devin Bertelsen and Martha Spangler, Koch has been elected to represent not just women but the whole of the student body. Unlike last year, she won’t be the only member of the fairer sex on the Board of Regents, with the University of Nebraska at Kearney and University of Nebraska Medical Center also electing female representatives.
“I think this mirrors society because we are seeing more female CEOs,” Jager said. “It also mirrors higher education. There are more females in college now, so it appears as if this is keeping pace with societal trends.”
3) A different kind of president
Beyond both the fact that she ran unopposed and that she is the fourth female president, Koch is also the first president in nearly a decade that doesn’t have a background as a member of a Greek organization.
The closest to a non-Greek president UNO has seen in recent years was in 2012 with Bertelsen, who disaffiliated with her sorority Zeta Tau Alpha the year prior to her election.
“I have a lot of friends inside the Greek system and outside,” Koch said. “Greek Life is a huge part of this campus, so I want to make sure their represented and heard even if I was never in a sorority.”
Koch assures that her partnership with Mackenzie, who is a member of Pi Kappa Alpha, will ensure that both Greeks and non-Greeks will receive equal representation.
“I want all students to feel comfortable talking to me or Adam,” Koch said. “Since he does come from a fraternity, it’s really the best of both worlds with us.”
4) Voter turnout dwindles
With only 648 students casting votes on March 11, less than five percent of the campus practiced their civic duty. 2014’s dismal voter turnout isn’t an oddity but instead another emerging trend.
One explanation for this would be that the last two races for president have been uncontended; however, similar voter turnout occurred in 2012 when Bertelsen ran opposed and only a couple hundred more voted in the 2011 election when O’Conner also ran opposed.
“When you have a full slate of candidates for each position in Student Government, that certainly helps boost voter turnout,” Jager said.
Student Government has made it the responsibility of their Public Relations chair to boost voter turnout for the past several years. From promoting the elections on social media to posting fliers around campus, the organization has tried several tactics over the years to amp up the number of students voting.
“Student Government can only do so much unfortunately,” Jager said. “What drives turn-out is the candidates getting out there and promoting themselves and their race.”
Another explanation for low-turnout this year would be students had to log-in to MavSync, a new online platform for campus organizations, for the first time this year to access the ballot. Jager said he is hopeful that this problem will dissipate as students become more familiar with the system in coming years.
“I was very pleased with the elections this year,” Koch said. “We weren’t out there saying, vote, vote, vote, but instead trying to get ideas from other students and sharing our vision with them. We got a lot of great feedback, which makes me very excited for next year.“