In between going to workshops, studying for midterms, preparing for the night’s social event, and getting caught up in their own problems, students at the UR do not care enough about student government. Come voting day, voter outcome is lower than ideal. Campaigning for Senate, Class Council, and Student Association’s executive board elections started on Monday, and I can’t help but feel that the only ones motivated about upcoming elections are the people up for tenure. More than half of the students that do decide to vote don’t even visit the website providing access to the candidates’ platforms. It should be the student leaders’ job to motivate their fellow students to participate in the “political” race. Personally, I think every leader should try to talk to everyone they know, for at least a few minutes, to ensure that people are aware of what’s happening on campus and familiarize them with the different roles that committees play in shaping how our student body appears to the administration, alumni, and other schools. It may be difficult to motivate students to get involved in the election process or even to listen to the candidates’ proposals. Most students don’t understand why it’s worth running for a leadership position. I can assure you that the campaigning process alone is worth the effort you put into it. No matter how much work undergraduates put into their roles as student leaders, the benefits they reap are well worth the time commitment. Most students are solely focused on perfecting their academics, which is a commendable endeavor. However, college life is more than just getting straight A’s. Granted, excelling academically is a big part of why we’re here, but learning to lead, putting yourself out there, and getting your voice heard are equally important parts of the maturation process. You become more responsible and approachable. You learn that not everyone thinks the same way you do. You consciously become a more considerate leader, and learn to include other people’s ideas when making decisions. Real life, what we’re supposed to be preparing for, requires all of these skills and more.
Working with a close-knit group can teach a lot. Being with people that are from different backgrounds provides unique outlooks on every topic. It is a pity that a low voting rate is a commonplace thing here at UR. Even though the percentages are reasonably higher than average American voters’, they are far from ideal.
I think the reason why most people don’t vote is that they are too caught up in their own individual problems. The reality is voting affects everyone. Deciding who next year’s Student Association’s President and Vice-President will be could make a difference in whether or not campus turns completely environmentally friendly by a set year, or if UR can feasibly become a smoke-free zone. If students knew that the committees – Appropriations, Policy & Review, Projects and Services, Communications & Public Relations, and Elections in the Senate – make important decisions like these that affect their everyday lives, they would care more. It is our job to get informed and attend presidential debates because, whether we like it or not, the decisions made by student leaders have a direct effect on student life. Additionally, without the class councils, students might not have the motivation to get through the stressful finals week – when class council traditionally gives out free food in order to lower students’ stress levels – not to mention bringing puppies to campus to combat the Seasonal Affective Disorder that seems to plague our student body halfway through a semester. It is important that we elect individuals who we know will effectively organize events that will boost school spirit and motivate students to keep studying.
When students realize that they are directly affected by these decisions, they will be more conscientious and decide to make a difference. That is why, come April 7-8, I hope to see the number of voters increase in comparison to last year’s numbers. I strongly believe that we are a caring campus, but sometimes we are just too preoccupied with our own lives. It is worth taking some time to understand the positive effects having a committed and involved student body has on school image. Not only does having active student leaders boost school spirit, but it also makes for a more fun, more dynamic, and prouder student body as a whole. So, I hope that many of you will reflect on your past levels of participation and will strive to improve it in the upcoming elections.
Blanco is a member of
the class of 2017.