By Chelsea Boozer
The Daily Helmsman
Photo by Aaron Turner, The Daily Helmsman
SGA President Hunter Lang and President-Elect Tyler DeWitt react to student body election results, presented in a closed meeting in the University Center at 3 p.m. Friday. Lang will retain his position until April 14.
Tyler DeWitt was elected president of the Student Government Association in last week's SGA election, defeating incumbent president Hunter Lang by 154 votes. DeWitt's party, United Students, won 22 of the 36 offices elected.
Students also approved a referendum that will increase student fees by $5 during the 2011-'12 school year. The increase will fund the USA Today Collegiate Readership Program and provide more funding for registered student organizations and recreational centers on campus.
Newly elected SGA President DeWitt and Vice President Rachel Goodwin, DeWitt's running mate, were greeted with congratulations by a small crowd of peers and faculty Friday evening after election results were announced during a closed-door University Center meeting.
"I was very happy with the turnout we had (in voters)," DeWitt said. "And though it is a very happy time for the United Students party and everyone elected, it is also a great responsibility for the United Students party and everyone who was elected because we promised accountability and also results, so it's our duty to make sure we are true to our word, and we model the way of the student body."
Lang shook DeWitt's hand at the close of the meeting and wished him well.
Voter turnout declined by 511 votes this year from last year's all-time recorded high of 2,610. But with 2,099 students voting, the election still saw the second-highest voter turnout in the SGA's recorded history.
"I was very happy to see the vote total exceed 2,000 voters again this year," SGA Election Commissioner Anthony LaRocca said. "The drop in voters from last year may be a result of less aggressive campaigning by the parties or a lack of major controversy amongst the candidates. However, the main takeaway is that we have been over 2,000 voters for the second year in a row, and interest in the SGA is very high."
The highest number of votes this year came from students in the College of Arts and Sciences. The Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law had the lowest number of students who voted, with only 13. These numbers were similar in 2009 and 2010.
The student fee referendum was approved by a wide margin: 535 voted yes, and only 147 voted no.
In a statement released to The Daily Helmsman, Lang thanked his supporters for a year of "reaching out to students, talking about different issues on campus, and building positive bonds" during his tenure as SGA President.
Though Lang was critical of reporting on his campaign, saying, "Not a lot of what I ever wanted to say made it into the paper, and I have to consider the likelihood of the negative headlines swaying the 154 votes, which made the difference in this election," he also said was grateful for his time in office.
"It has been an astounding experience that I will never trade for any other in my life," Lang said.
Fourteen students who ran for SGA office under the FACE party were also elected. However, representatives of the party must pay $350 before those elected can take office, as ordered by the student court, which fined FACE for improperly placing campaign posters on doors, trash cans, trees and other organizations' yard signs.
Lang's full statement can be read here.