On Tuesday and Wednesday, the student body can vote for their new Temple Student Government president and vice president at the student elections website after logging in with student credentials.
There are two parties running: Innovate TU, which includes presidential candidate Eryal Szysko and vice presidential candidate Ray Epstein, and Empower Owls, made up of presidential candidate Rohan Khadka and vice presidential candidate Lauren Jacob.
After reaching its peak in 2017, student voter turnout in TSG elections has significantly decreased. Only 139 total votes were cast for the executive campaign in the 2021-22 academic year and the most recent election had a campaign that ran unopposed. Recent low numbers are likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of competition in the previous three elections.
While approximately 92 percent of students generally disapprove of Temple President Jason Wingard’s performance as Temple president, TSG can convey the student body’s concerns to administration. This year, students should vote in TSG’s first contested election in three years because the elected candidates can advocate for the well-being of students and campus life.
Both Innovate TU and Empower Owls are advocating for increased communication from university administration, improved sustainability and a more diverse student government that’s representative of the student body.
Innovate TU aims to support survivors of sexual violence through a team of trained individuals who would assist survivors in advocacy. The campaign is also pushing to create a newsletter released by Temple’s Department of Public Safety to provide updated information on any crimes and incidents involving university Greek life.
Their other policy initiatives include expanding the TUalert system and providing freshmen with care packages of snacks and a map of campus resources. Innovate TU would also request pet waste stations both on and off campus.
Empower Owls would work to increase lighting off-campus and reform TUalerts and FLIGHT to be more accurate and timely. They will oppose single-use plastic materials in dining halls and push for better move-out coordination to decrease litter off campus. Empower Owls wants to implement issue-based town halls to improve the communication between TSG and students.
They are also encouraging students and the community to advocate for more transparency from Temple administration.
“When students vote, they should research who’s running, their policy positions and which platform most aligns with their views and also which platforms are most reasonable to implement,” said Student Body President Gianni Quattrocchi.
Students should vote for the party that has initiatives most valuable to them. Recent surveys suggest that young people lack a commitment to democratic governance in the U.S., where students vote at lower rates than the national average for all Americans, according to Tufts University.
Although the TSG presidential election is smaller than many government elections, it’s still important for students to cast a ballot because the outcome will directly affect students. The campaigns contain policy initiatives that target safety, sustainability and inclusivity. Students should be aware of what initiatives they are voting for when they cast their ballots.
“Democracy is kind of like a bustle and it’s important to exercise it,” said Nicoloas Catsis, a political science professor. “It’s healthy for democracy.”
Voting is a basic human right that students should exercise to see change and improvement in the university’s weaknesses.
More than 30 students have been victims of high-profile crimes in the Fall 2022 semester. Seventy-five percent of students identified safety as the biggest issue at Temple, according to a March 2023 poll by The Temple News. Students have also voiced their disapproval of the garbage and litter near off-campus homes.
The upcoming TSG election gives students an opportunity to vote for a candidate they feel will voice their concerns to the administration, potentially improving on- and off-campus issues.
“Oftentimes, the elections that are closest to you are the ones that have the biggest impact,” Catsis said.
Last semester, Quattrocchi and Vice President Akshitha Ag helped restore Temple’s chapter of It’s On Us, a national campaign created by the Obama administration in 2014 to raise awareness for sexual violence survivors. They also increased student feedback by hosting bi-weekly town halls, requiring student organizations to attend every two months.
“TSG is the elected representative of the student body, so it’s critical that [students] have a voice in who’s representing them to administration, in meetings and to the community at large as well,” Quattrocchi said.
The low number of voters in last year’s TSG election could also be attributed to students being unaware of the election. April Phillipps, a senior nursing major, was unaware of the TSG election, but after learning about the race and the candidates’ policy initiatives, she plans to vote on Tuesday.
“You hear students complaining about different things, and it’s like, well, there’s people out there trying to do something about it that I didn’t even know about,” Phillipps said. “So everyone’s just kind of complaining and then if they see a solution, I think that would give people hope, at least that like, ‘Maybe we can change something, maybe this can be better if I vote for these people, they’ll do something about it.’”
Students should have conversations about this week’s election to both spread awareness and learn more about Innovate TU’s and Empower Owls’ campaign initiatives.
It is imperative that students vote in the TSG presidential election this year, as it can make a significant difference in not only turnout but also students’ experiences at Temple.
Sarah Frasca contributed reporting.
CORRECTION: The Temple News would like to clarify a statement made pertaining to TSG’s involvement in the re-establishment of Temple’s chapter of It’s On Us. TSG did not reestablish Temple’s chapter of It’s On Us, but rather, Student Activists Against Sexual Assault are responsible for the re-establishment. While TSG did meet with the national Associate Director for It’s On Us, Blake Kitterman, SAASA reestablished the chapter.