Less than one percent of Ferris’s total enrollment voted in the student government presidential election last March, as determined by the Torch’s recent Freedom of Information (FOIA) request results.
A total of 67 students voted in the election accounting for 0.005 percent of the total enrollment. The spring 2013 enrollment was 13,813.
Erin Williams won the title of student government president with 54 votes. Her opposition, Travis Hill, had 13 votes. The election took place on OrgSync from March 27 to March 29, 2013.
“Whatever goes on in student government should be conveyed to the student body because that’s who we are representing,” said Student Government Public Relations Specialist, Carman Plank.
Due to large sections of the results being redacted, the Torch asked Vice President of Student Affairs Don Flickinger for help to decipher them.
He explained that the columns were redacted because the names underneath were individual voter names. Flickinger was unable to explain the FOIA results. Instead, he gave the Torch a summary assessment of student government results, listing the last five elections with a vote count for each candidate.
No results were available for the 2009 and 2011 elections due to a lack of record keeping, according to Flickinger.
“It’s been a very good learning curve [for student government],” Flickinger said. “I believe that [student government] will be requesting each person that wishes to run to sign a FERPA agreement, allowing that information to be publically presented [in the future].”
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA protects the privacy of student records.
According to Flickinger, “FERPA trumps FOIA” and was the reason behind much of the struggle for information.
After the Torch was told that the student government presidential election results were not public information, the Torch submitted a FOIA request at 4 p.m. on Oct. 30.
Vice President and General Counsel Miles Postema responded on Nov. 6, asking for a 10-day extension.
The Torch received a packet including the minutes and spreadsheet of the results on Nov. 20.
Student government members were told to step back and let the administration take care of the FOIA request, according to Plank.
“We thank you [The Torch] for bringing this to our attention; it wasn’t something that was brought to our attention before that,” Plank said. “It gives us an opportunity to better the [student government] election process and record keeping skills.”
The lack of student engagement is an issue that student government hopes to address and change this year. They plan to get the word out through the Torch, social media and word of mouth, according to Plank.
According to Flickinger, from now on, student government will be transparent.
“We represent the student body; there shouldn’t be anything that goes on in student government that should be hidden from anyone else,” Plank said.
Student government plans to increase student body participation by updating the student government website, making sure all of the minutes, governing documents and constitution are on there and updated. The election will be published on the website, as well.
There will be dates of the spring election available by the end of the fall semester.
“Hopefully this year we can get more participation out of the whole student body than we have for a very long time,” newly inducted Student Government President Andrew Kalinowski said.
Student government can be found through OrgSync, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress blog and their website.