Hannah King · April 1, 2011
More students participated in student association elections this year at Southern Virginia University than any year previous.
According to Joseph Bouchelle, associate dean of students, 77 percent of Southern Virginia students voted in the student elections this year. This high percentage is unheard of at most other universities.
“We went to a student government conference, and in a meeting on how to increase student turn-out at elections, they told us ‘if you can do 20 percent, then you’re doing great,’” said Bouchelle. “That year, we had a 57-percent turn out. And this year, we have our highest number of votes ever.”
Esther Harsh, a junior who was elected vice president of honor this year, thought that the high percentage of student participation at Southern Virginia had a lot to do with many students’ belief in their ability to make a difference.
“All of us here believe in greatness,” Harsh said. “We know that we can make a difference, that one vote makes a difference. We know that the opportunities given to us here make a change.”
Another reason, according to Bouchelle, is that Southern Virginia students are used to being involved in many ways. Their high turn-out rate for voting in student elections is just another example of the many ways in which students actively participate in the development of the university.
The record high number of votes happened in concurrence with a record high number of students running for the executive council. Twenty-five students ran for various positions on the council. A reason for this level of involvement is that students feel like the Southern Virginia administration listens to their counsel.
“I feel like I have a voice, and I’ll have more of a voice with the position of president,” said Zach Garner, a junior from Boise, Idaho, who was recently elected president of the student association. “The administration does a great job listening to the students. The respect that they have for me, and I for them, will enable us to work well together and take more students’ thoughts into consideration.”
Harsh also said that she feels she has a voice as a student and even more now as a member of the student executive council. She is excited to work with the administration because they give the students incredible opportunities to be leaders and they inspire greatness in her and other students.
Bouchelle stated that the student executive council is well respected by the administration and has a huge impact on the school. The council acts as a liaison between the student body and the administration. Members of the student executive council get to interact directly with members of the president’s council. According to Bouchelle, the many students’ desire to be on the council, and their peers’ involvement in voting, is a result of the positive campus environment at Southern Virginia.
“The climate on this campus is empowerment and pro-activity,” said Bouchelle. “The students are responding to it and that is wonderful to see.”