Students may encounter tough choices in this week's elections
During the past two weeks, Nevada students would have found it hard to walk in any part of the campus without coming across campaign signs for candidates running in this years undergraduate student government elections.
This year's ballot will include not only the annual executive and senate positions for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN), but also the choice to discard the current 15-year-old constitution and implement a new constitution, said Sarah Ragsdale, current speaker of the senate and presidential hopeful.
Ragsdale said the draft of the new constitution, if voted on by the students, will make it easier to change certain policies that the current constitution covers. She added that making amendments for the constitution is about a year-long process, as new amendments must be passed in the senate then voted on by the students.
"The proposed document still provides the structure and rules necessary, but is much less constraining," Ragsdale said.
Ragsdale said many senators were concerned with the lack of material in the new constitution. Nicole Nelson, ASUN elections chair, believes the constitution can do a lot for the student government and the student body.
"There has been a lot stricken from the current constitution in order to make it more flexible," Nelson said. "I'm optimistic about the results if it passes."
According to Nelson, the largest concern with the general elections this year involves voter turn-out and encouraging students to come out to the polls. Nelson said the turn-out rate has been decreasing over the years. Last year's elections were an all-time low.
"We are hoping to increase the number of voters this year and let students know they do have a voice," Nelson said.
Fewer candidates in this year's elections than in previous years eliminated the need for primary elections, Nelson said. The lack of the primary elections, she said, may result in a larger amount of students voting in the general elections.
"We are hoping that this will allow for less voter apathy and the number of voters will increase," Nelson said.
A Tale of Two Presidential Candidates
This term's elections have two experienced candidates competing for the presidential seat: current Executive Vice President Chris Driscoll and Speaker of the Senate Sarah Ragsdale.
Driscoll, an economics major, began his career in the ASUN student government as a senator for the College of Business Administration in the 2005-2006 term. Driscoll said one of his most notable accomplishments as a COBA senator have been his involvement in the renovation of the Ansari Business Building lounge.
"When I was a senator, we finished up the plans, began working with the architects, putting designs in and finalizing the project," Driscoll said. "We got the timeline set up and just made sure everything we proposed would work."
According to Driscoll, the ASUN funded $50,000 to the renovation, the COBA Alumni Association funded it another $50,000 and the Wilbur D. May Foundation donated $20,000 to the project. The lounge is scheduled to open after spring break.
Driscoll also helped to draft legislation that recognized the efforts of many people who aided the success of the University's basketball team in his 2005 - 2006 term. Driscoll researched a large amount of the information used to draft this piece of legislation.
"It fostered awareness," Driscoll said. "It helped them to have a feeling that their efforts were being recognized."
As a senator, Driscoll also served as the vice chair of the senate's lobbying committee, the academic affairs committee, and the rules and actions committee. He has had experience in the judicial branch and served in place of the speaker of the senate at Flipside meetings for four months.
As the current ASUN vice president for 2006-2007, Driscoll helped to rewrite the tailgating policy promoting a safer atmosphere and chaired in the Publications Board.
Driscoll has also held leadership positions outside of the ASUN government and is an active member in the Greek community. He served as a secretary for the fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon in 2004 and is currently the vice president of the organization. Driscoll is also a member of the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and has served as a delegate to the Interfraternity Council for two years.
Driscoll has also served the Blue Crew as a vice president and volunteers every summer for the Hugh O' Brian youth leadership.
"We gather high school students from different areas in Washington DC and show them how to have a global community," Driscoll said.
Ragsdale, a health ecology major, started working in the ASUN government in 2004 as an intern for the legal services department. In 2005, when someone in the department recommended her to an open seat in the senate for what was then the College of Health and Human Services, she took the opportunity.
As a senator, Ragsdale drafted the legislation that built the crosswalk lightings on Sierra Street and promoted campus safety, which passed in the senate unanimously.
Ragsdale also managed an open forum addressing students' concerns with the free speech policy on campus and chaired the committee that wrote the new free speech policy including the student's interests.
During Ragsdale's 2005 term as a senator, she served on the Clubs and Organizations Board, the rules and actions committee, the legislative lobbying committee and was the chair of the student services committee. Ragsdale was also awarded the Senator of the Year in 2005.
"I was appointed by my colleagues," Ragsdale said. "It was a really great honor."
As the current speaker of the senate, Ragsdale is deeply involved in the Joe Crowley Student Union project and its design committee. She is familiar with nearly all aspects of the project, including student's feedback on the project and discussing the safety, building and environmental issues concerning the project.
"I work with the designers, the contractors and helped on the interior design," Ragsdale said.
Ragsdale is also largely responsible for the legislative branch and is a member of the ASUN's events programming board Flipside. She has garnered valuable experience with many ASUN clubs and organizations. Ragsdale is also a part of the School of Public Health Club and was the vice president of the club Circle K.
For more information on the presidential candidates and for a full list of other candidates, visit the ASUN elections information website.