Image Credits: Northwestern
If you’re a political junkie, you know that elections matter. Even the most localized contests will impact your life in some way, even if they aren’t quite as exciting as a historic presidential election. In fact, the more localized the government, the more direct control the winner of that race will have on your daily life.
That being said, it’s that time of year when elections are happening on college campuses all around the country. Students are electing student body presidents, university parliament representatives and even entire student administrative teams. For those of us involved in politics, it’s an exciting, transitional time on campus. You might even be running for a position yourself by promoting your campaign on social media and rallying fellow students. Unfortunately most students don’t participate even by casting a ballot.
Even though student government can have a fairly large impact on your daily campus life, most students don’t vote in the elections. In fact, at Temple University this year, only 14.7 percent of students voted, and the ballot was online. Students could vote without even getting out of bed, but turn-out was extremely low. That particular election was unique in a lot of ways, one being that participation was actually up from the year before. Between less than 20 percent of students voting and a minor scandal erupting before votes were counted, how can the student body be expected to trust their government?
Without a doubt, that turn-out number leaves you with many questions. Why don’t students care about student government? Don’t they understand the institution’s sphere of influence? Now, how do they feel about having a parliament that less than one fifth of the student body elected? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for these questions because student governments can really affect campus climates, and students still don’t take five minutes to electronically vote.
At University of Texas, Austin, the student government introduced a bill to reduce penalties for students under 21 caught with alcohol. On a positive note for conservative students, Lafayette College student government introduced bipartisan discussions to ease tensions on campus. From the opposite side of the political spectrum, American University student government demanded that trigger warnings be given in syllabi when content could be traumatic.
Student government is often the most effective bridge between the student body and the university’s administration, so it’s important that students participate in elections and vote for representatives who, quite literally, represent them. If a majority of UT Austin’s students believe in reducing penalties for underage students caught with alcohol, then that student government is probably doing its job, but if American University students are generally against trigger warnings, the student government is obviously misusing power. If students are so passionate about holding the federal government accountable with various protests, they should also be active in political culture on campuses. After all, President Trump isn’t going to reduce the penalties of alcohol possession by a minor any time soon.