Student elections at Portland State have long been a sad testament to the level of student involvement on campus. Year after year, candidates seem to belong to the same groups of friends, and few students even bother to vote. This year does not seem to be shaping up any differently.

In particular, we would like to draw your attention to the position of Student Fee Committee chair, a position many students may not pay attention to because it does not carry a familiar title like president or senator.

The Student Fee Committee chair is arguably the most powerful student government post, presiding over the committee that controls the allocation of over $8 million in student incidental fee money to student groups and athletics.

Yet this year only one person, Tina Cooper, bothered to run for the job.

Regardless of Cooper’s qualifications, it is disappointing that students are not being given a diverse choice of candidates for such an influential position.

Every year, student groups request more funding from the Student Fee Committee than there is to go around. By deciding who gets a slice of the funding pie, the committee has the opportunity to substantially impact the flavor of student life at Portland State.

The level to which student groups are funded can determine whether they fade away or thrive. Most groups rely on student fee money to pay rent for their office space, promotional materials to keep groups visible, and events that benefit the campus community at large.

Even if you are not involved in student groups, the Student Fee Committee affects you as a Portland State student. All students must pay the student incidental fee each term, currently $131 for full-time students. Because of a fee committee decision this year, the fee will likely increase to $137 for the 2005-06 academic year.

Granted, the committee chair does not make funding decisions on his or her own. But traditionally the other six student members have relied on the chair to interpret the committee bylaws and be a spokesperson for the group. Because of this, we feel the committee chair’s viewpoint carries significantly more weight with the student body than ordinary committee members.

Though the deadline to declare normal candidacy for the elections has passed, students can still run for office as write-in candidates.

If being Student Fee Committee chair next year might be something that interests you, just get 20 students to sign a petition of support, and file an application with the ASPSU Elections Committee before March 5. Your name will not appear on the ballot, but you can still campaign on campus for the position.

Students should have a choice in such a powerful elected official, rather than settling for a shoo-in.