SA voting a responsibility

By Jeremiah Caterina

Today begins students’ chance to vote for next year’s Student Association executives.

The people elected speak for students, so it’s imperative students take part in choosing those leaders.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of every student casting his or her vote for the executive candidates. The SA is the student body’s voice and conveys our students’ thoughts, suggestions and needs to administrators.

While the executives work closely together, each position has an immense and unique responsibility to the student body. From the large amount of money executives manage to the authority they have over student organizations, I can’t overstate the importance of each role.

The executives “can literally direct a message to President [Doug] Baker with one phone call or one visit,” said SA Vice President Kaliah Smith.

That’s a lot of responsibility for our leaders, so it’s important we play in active role in choosing the right people to have that responsibility.

“[SA executives] are unique in the fact that we have a seat at the table, and this allows our students’ voices to be heard,” said SA President Jack Barry.

According to the SA Constitution, the president “act[s] as chief spokesperson and liaison for the SA” in matters of the university.

Similarly, the vice president serves as the first point of contact for student organizations. The position also serves as a liaison between students, student-run organizations and NIU’s administration.

“I oversee about 300-plus organizations,” Smith said. “In order for an organization to become fully recognized, they have to come to me first.”

But students should pay attention to more than just presidential and vice presidential positions.

More candidates are vying to become student treasurer than any other executive position.

SA treasurer Ivan Garcia said the Office of the Treasurer oversees apportionment of the student activity fee students pay each semester — roughly $1.6 million in the 2013-14 school year.

“We use that to fund everything from campus Rec, Health Enhancement, child care and other big departments,” Garcia said.

Outside the SA, the student trustee serves as the only student representative to the Board of Trustees. Incumbent student trustee Elliot Echols has had a notable influence on NIU policy. He voted against raising tuition, participated in hiring Baker as president and served as vice chair of the Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee.

“The student trustee has a responsibility to the student body to … be accountable,” Echols said. “The top things [a student trustee votes on] would be policy, tenure for professors [and] how the university spends money.”

This goes to show any vote a student casts carries weight. Turnout will be crucial to this year’s election.

“It’s really competitive this year … just a few votes can make a difference,” Garcia said.

The truth is NIU belongs to us, the students. The best way to steer NIU’s course is to elect a student government suited to represent our opinions and needs.