By Jackie Glosniak
April 17, 2013
It is not typical for a college freshman to win a student government presidency. On those rare occasions when it happens, a vastly different school year is sure to be around the corner.
In one of the most competitive elections Dominican has seen in recent years, freshman Cutberto Aguayo defeated freshman Michael Melchiorre and junior William Foley for the position of president of the Student Government Association.
Elections were open to all students from May 20 through 26, with voting taking place both in-person in Lewis Hall and online via myDU. According to Associate Dean of Students and SGA Advisor Norah Collins, a total of only 251 students voted in the SGA general election.
Aguayo has several ambitious goals for his term in presidency. As featured in both his rhetoric and publicity, Aguayo has expressed wanting to increase the power of SGA, something that has been a notorious struggle for the organization.
One big thing in particular Aguayo wants to work towards is providing U-Passes, which would offer unlimited rides to students on all CTA transportation for each semester. He proposes cutting the current technology printing fee from $200 to $100 a semester for students and then using the $100 savings to pay off the U-Pass fee.
Aguayo has also proposed student-picked dining services menus as well as working to keep the fitness center open 24 hours a day.
Current SGA President Marco Rodriguez said he has never seen such strong proposals from an incoming president and has high hopes for Aguayo’s presidency.
“Aguayo has a great background and he has three years ahead of him, giving him more time to build change at Dominican,” Rodriguez said. “I only had one year [to implement change] and that wasn’t enough time.”
Rodriguez also warns that student apathy could threaten Aguayo’s vision. For example, this past fall, SGA hosted a town hall meeting with top Dominican administrators where they experienced low student attendance. Also, attempts to lobby state legislators with a letter-writing campaign fell flat, with only five SGA members writing.
However, the bigger current issue with SGA regards the fact that neither SGA nor the Dean of Students office will release the final numbers on how many votes each candidate for president garnered. Upon repeated requests from the Dominican Star to Collins and current SGA Vice President Jessica Parran asking for the release of final voting figures, both stated they cannot release such information and have never done so.
Rodriguez believes they may not be doing so out of fear of hurting the feelings of Melchiorre and Foley. He also stated that Collins refused to provide him with numbers for votes per candidate.
“I think that voting breakdown, whether for an SGA election or any other kind of election, should be revealed,” he said. “There is no legitimate reason that I can think of for not allowing the public to see the breakdown. It seems suspicious to me that the Dean of Students Office would not provide that information, and it is something that I do not approve of.”
David Dolence, associate professor of political science, agrees with Rodriguez that the public deserves to know the voter breakdown.
“This is a student government election at a university, not a grade school student council election,” Dolence argued. “The university administration has a legitimate interest in its accuracy and fairness, but should not control any part of it. Any announcement of results or action taken regarding those results should be in the hands of the SGA election committee, sans any interested administration.”
Rodriguez believes that this decision should be solely left up to SGA to decide upon, with no sheltering of information from students. As president, he also feels embarrassed that he cannot provide students with a solid answer about voting.
“I am proposing a constitutional amendment that would change the SGA constitution and mandate the voting breakdown be made public after each election,” he explained. “It disappoints me that I have to even propose an amendment because that information should automatically be made public.
Regarding whether or not this is something typical for government entities to do, Dolence disagrees that this is an acceptable practice.
“There are absolutely no legitimate democratic procedures that would hold back vote count to the extent available,” he said. “To do otherwise is an obnoxious violation of democratic electoral freedom and withholding that information when it is available should be seen as an overt act to deceive the voters. This is how dictators and tyrants run business, such as old man Daley insisting on seeing vote totals before they were released to make sure they were ‘correct’.”
Before his term is over, Rodriguez hopes to make one final lasting change for the best interests of the student body and democracy.
“This practice just makes SGA look like we have no control over what we choose to do, and that has to change,” Rodriguez said. “That change will happen before I leave office.”