Opinion: Student government needs better marketing and outreach strategies | Opinion

If you’ve ever needed a Scantron for a test or a mask during term, Student Government has you covered.

Many students, including myself, have already taken advantage of these resources. Several times over the past few semesters, I’ve left my mask at home and only had 10 minutes to find one before my next class starts. Luckily, the SG office of the Students’ Union had a lot to offer for free.

In situations like these, where an immediate need is present in the student body, SG has the opportunity to make a difference. The members of the SG function, in theory, as the voice of the students in the day-to-day operations of the university.

But how many students are actually aware of what SG does?

“The only thing I know [SG] is I walk down Free Speech Alley on election day and see a bunch of booths,” said Danylo Zaitsev, a freshman biology student.

For students not involved in SG, the campaigns are often their only impression and direct contact with the organization. In terms of what these activists accomplish once elected, students are often uncertain.

“I have no idea how they affect me,” said painting and drawing junior Audrey McLellan. “I never really heard of what they were able to do. I felt like it was just another form of high school voting for president, and then they’re kind of right there. It really does nothing.

SG has a marketing problem. Many students on campus have no real idea how their so-called advocates are actually defending them. How can a representative body claim to be effective when the people it represents are unaware of its functions or purpose?

It would be easy to give up in despair and conclude that no one on campus cares about what our student representatives can do or achieve, but that is not the case.

Just because students don’t know what SG does doesn’t mean they don’t want to know more about the organization.

“I would be interested in learning more about student government,” said Josio Meda, a freshman in Experimental Music and Digital Media. “As long as it gets attention, you know?”

Zaitsev thinks that “the university should definitely push more so that people know what [SG] Is.”

Somehow, our university must reconcile the existing contradiction between a widespread ignorance of the functions of the SG and the ever-existing desire among students to know more.

One answer might just be to tell students to do their own research, but expecting students to figure it all out and stay up to date on their own might work, it probably already does. The bare minimum of setting up polling booths during election week doesn’t seem to have had much effect either, as voter turnout hovers at less than 15%.

If SG wants to have an informed voting base, it should employ new marketing strategies. I’m no expert on this, but even a layman like me can imagine plenty of possibilities.

Consider the frenzies students will go to for free food. Couldn’t SG organize more widely advertised food distributions so that the student body can meet their representatives?

SG is well known for its big events like the annual Groovin’ concert, but could do more to organize educational events. Students enjoy enjoying free music and food, so SG should combine this atmosphere with an event specifically aimed at educating the community on what the organization works on and how it operates.

Passing a brochure to a student rushing to class is an easy way to create excess garbage, but such a centralization of awareness would be the perfect space for interested people to learn more.

Other possibilities vary in the resources they require, but any of them would be better than none. Posters could display recent events or notable moments in the Senate, or small raffles could prompt social media sharing platforms via a designated hashtag.

We might even take a note from the history books and select a campus crier to announce newly passed legislation in the Quad. Really, the only thing standing in the way of SG seems to be his own lack of creativity.

Even beyond events or incentives, a slight change in branding could make a significant difference. SG’s purple and gold banners and tablecloths are virtually invisible in Free Speech Alley – many other college programs and groups will look alike. Like Medea said, just make it eye-catching.

Noah McKinney is an English and History junior from Houston, TX.