Saturday, March 14, 2009 1 Comment
Originally published March 5, 2009.
“Seriously, who cares?”
This all-too-fitting line closed Jordan Harp’s column on Tuesday. In it, he also gave students the benefit of the doubt, suggesting that they’re informed rather than apathetic (at least when it comes to student elections).
I’m not buying it.
Quite a few things have happened on campus as of late that suggest otherwise – that students don’t know and don’t care. While I feel the ongoing debates over Cotton Club really take the cake in terms of student ignorance and apathy, student elections this week really were the icing on top.
In an article than ran in Tuesday’s DI, two student candidates for senate openly admitted that the race for office is based almost purely on name recognition, which you know firsthand if you’ve walked across any sidewalk on campus in the last few weeks.
Our candidates, hungry for recognition, simply facilitated the student body’s inclination toward ignorance. I didn’t see a single poster offering an abbreviated list of platform points for any candidate, but I can rest assured knowing that Chris Chung has been “ghostridin’ the whip since 1988.”
For students not looking to glorify their resumes, elected student positions may not mean all that much. Their irrelevance is facilitated by this kind of obnoxious campaigning devoid of information. Though some candidates boasted campaign Web sites offering enlightenment on their stances and endorsements by RSOs, the majority of students never make it past the slogans plastered across every inch of University property.
Long story short, no one has any idea what people are running for, and the lack of “serious power” behind elected student officials convinces voters that it doesn’t matter. If we’re all too cynical about these positions to even bother to vote for the candidates, then no one will give a second thought to demanding a change in the power structure. If we want student officials to have more than just a voice that administrators can promptly ignore, it begins with the general student population giving a damn.
We care so little that most students don’t even seem to know their rights – that is, what methods of campaigning the Student Election Commission bars in order to maintain our privacy. According to the 2009 election guidelines packet, candidates cannot campaign “within 50 feet of any publicly accessible university computer,” nor can they post campaign material on other surfaces besides University bulletin boards or Illiosks.
I found campaign handouts conveniently left beside the printer in a computer lab Tuesday morning after online voting had opened, and I definitely ran into campaign ads stapled up in classrooms for most of February, an activity that is expressly frowned upon.
Finally, the kicker for me was receiving not one, but two generic campaign e-mails to my University account from a candidate. While I was unable to find anything expressly listed in the Appropriate Use Policy or other Information Tech Policies, I have a strong hunch that this is not allowed – otherwise, we’d have all gotten something from every candidate even entertaining the idea of running for student office.
At the end of the day, our right to avoid visual assault by campaign material is sacrificed by our lack of information. In addition, we lose our right to demand that our elected body of student officials actually wield some power in the process of shaping our experiences at this institution, from our tuition rates to the number of recycling bins available on campus.
No, voting on its own isn’t enough to make a difference. But it’s the first step toward proving we as a student body care about what happens on campus. Instead of advocating to administrators the meaninglessness of our voices, we have to vocally push for change, starting with the enforcement of campaign guidelines and moving all the way up to the roles of our student politicians.
If we want change, we have to make it ourselves.
Chelsea is a senior in English and creative writing and wonders if froth art in coffee is a subtle form of flirtation.