Welcome to Liz’s Lemonade Stand, where the lemons of life are twisted into the sweetest lemonade.
One unseasonably warm morning last week (winter skipped over the west, much to every skier’s chagrin) I was heading from class to the student union building when out of the blue on the plaza, up had popped several brightly colored A-frame signs. I peered at them inquisitively, taking in the hand-painted slogans urging me to vote for Dewey Dell as Vice President of Underwater Basket-weaving (please note my use of hypotheses). I realized that elections week must be underway; the previous week, the university newspaper had included a candidate guide and several articles outlining election-related news.
Roughly an hour later en route to my next class, the sidewalks swarming with students, candidates and their campaigning assistants were working their angles. “Have you voted yet?!” They chimed, waving about flyers. Suddenly, a friend’s voice echoed in my head: “This is the worst week of spring semester. You can’t walk anywhere on campus without them heckling you.” I quickly averted my gaze and avoided making eye contact with the business-casual clad students standing next to their A-frames.
The next few days, those same words of warning led me to reroute my paths around campus. I learned that the friend who had initially counseled me on her previous election week experiences shared sentiment with many other students. When I brought up the elections with a few other friends, all upperclassmen, they brushed them off, listing their grievances with the system. Among them were several complaints that sounded reminiscent of high school student government elections: it’s too much of a popularity contest; I don’t even know who I’m voting for; only the candidate and their friends care; electing senators for the other colleges is pointless.
A unique scenario on campus this year coupled these (and other) excuses for being lax with voting: due to an abnormally high number of unopposed candidates, the existing student government had to vote on new election measures to accommodate these so-called “write ins.” Overall, I was left feeling very unimpressed by the amount of interest the student body had in the elections. It baffled me that only 1 in 10 students at my school voted; I suppose you can translate this level of disinterest with the low voter turn out among the collegiate demographic in national elections.
Such general apathy towards student government is a pressing issue. The dissenters’ dirt with the elections rings with a bit of truth. However, I believe that it’s a mix of a lack of effort to get informed about the elections and a lack of appreciation for the work that student government does. Personally, I fall into both of these categories. I fully admit my laziness in failing to read up on the candidates’ platforms. On the same token, the work student government does at my school is not well publicized, adding to the campus-wide disinterest. It’s only now that elections are over that I’ve realized the folly in throwing away my vote.
Student government officers are awarded with a scholarship for their work, but more importantly, they wield the power of funding, via student fees collected through tuition.
Keep this in mind when you go to the polls, either physically or virtually; the candidates you vote for are representing you and your school. The decisions they make carry significant weight, ranging from changing bylaws regarding the election process to raising/lowering tuition. Being an informed, educated voter doesn’t mean you need to throw yourself to the sharks by walking through that sea of A-frames, Simply do your homework on which candidates align most closely with what you believe is important for your school to be doing. Don’t make the freshman mistake that I did and shrug off the opportunity to make your opinion count. If anything, think of it as practice for the next presidential election, because ‘MURICA.