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Student government tries to tap into leadership potential on campus

Due to low student participation in past Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC) elections, the student government has implemented new recruitment strategies in order to boost involvement in its upcoming election on Mar. 15-16.

Since ASMC introduced online voting last year, voter participation rates have increased, according to Young-Law.

In 2010, 191 students voted in the General ASMC Election and 201 voted in the Presidential Run-off Election out of approximately 650 eligible voters (all continuing undergraduates), according to Young-Law.

“We had about 30 percent participation in voting last spring, and we are hoping for even more this spring,” Young-Law said in an email.

The spring election process began last week, and the ASMC has been encouraging undergraduates to step up into leadership roles and “empower student voice,” according to the organization’s vision.

At its Feb. 14 meeting, ASMC leaders discussed possible students who stand out as leaders and would enrich student government by running for office.

Advisor Courtney Young-Law encouraged ASMC leaders to actively recruit fellow undergraduates.

“People run when they’re asked,” Young-Law said. “A lot of people have ideas inside themselves. Some people arrive here first year and say, ‘I’m going to be president of ASMC someday.’ If you are not those people, the best way to get them is to say, ‘You want to run? I think you’d be great for X.’”

Internal Affairs Chair Rebecca Freeman said current ASMC leaders should keep fellow undergraduates informed about student government in general so that they know they can always get involved.

“There’s so much untapped leadership potential on campus,” Young-Law said to ASMC. “I really think you all are key to making that happen.”

Many students who are eligible to run feel that they are unable to do so due to busy schedules and a general lack of knowledge about ASMC itself.

Kacey Bills, a junior, said she knows very little about ASMC. 

“I’m a commuter,” Bills said, “so I don’t keep up with all that stuff. I feel like I should, but I don’t. I think it’s harder for us (commuters) to get involved in events on campus because we have so much going on outside Mills.”

Michelle Ho, a junior, said she does not know much either but guesses that ASMC has something to do with Student Services.

“They host a lot of the parties on campus,” Ho said.

Bills said she has been interested in student government since high school, but she wouldn’t run for an ASMC position.

“I have to work two jobs, and I support myself,” Bills said. “But if I have time, if I lived on campus and had all that stuff paid for, I’d be down. I’ve always wanted to do that.”

Angela Moffett, a senior, said she’s not involved in school groups like student government because she doesn’t feel passionate about the activities.

Moffett is a resumer who lives off campus.

“It’s hard to come back for a dance, and no one would want to dance with a 40 year old,” Moffett said.

Moffett does think that a good ASMC candidate would be someone who’s paying attention to what’s happening on campus and is not afraid to speak up.

“For the most part, women here feel pretty comfortable with their voices,” Moffett said.

Bills has also noticed this about Mills women.

“When we have a class discussion, it just seems like it never ends. People won’t stop talking,” Moffett said. “People just have very strong opinions about things. I think Mills women are the best ones to be running for any kind of leadership position. There are a lot of leaders on our campus. I think they are just not running for ASMC because they’re thinking, ‘I’m too busy.’”

For those who aren’t too busy to run, Bills has a suggestion.

“They should come up with platforms like real politicians,” Bills said. “Why not? So we can really see what they’re trying to do for the school.”

ASMC is also trying to encourage candidates to have platforms.

“Vision statements are more important than the popularity thing,” said Isabel Cortes, ASMC Judicial Board Chair.

Ho said a good ASMC candidate would be someone outspoken and willing to advocate for students’ real needs.

“I feel like there should be meetings for everyone,” Ho said, “so the people who don’t talk as much or the people who don’t have the time can email ASMC so at least our voices will be heard.”

ASMC is looking for candidates for both the Senate and Executive boards.

Members of the Executive Board are expected to provide at least four hours a week to ASMC activities. Some of their responsibilities involve being representatives of the student body to the administration and meeting with the college President about student needs.

Senators represent specific areas of campus, such as academic departments and residence halls, in ASMC meetings.