After a pathetic 22.5 per cent voter turnout in last year’s Students’ Union election, I didn’t think voter apathy could get any worse. I was quite wrong. This year the vote represented an even lower 21.7 per cent of the undergrad population.
More than three-quarters of students at this university have one reason or another to not voice their opinions on who should be running the SU. I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of that proportion simply doesn’t care. Perhaps they don’t see the point of the SU, or they think the SU is a waste of time and money. Some days I feel inclined to agree with them.
But if the SU is in fact ineffective, it’s not because of a fundamentally flawed system. It’s also not due to incompetent executives or a university administration that doesn’t care about the student voice. It’s because the SU has less than a quarter of the student body behind them.
If the SU had the support of the majority of the student body, it would be able to push for things like lower tuition, affordable on-campus housing, interdisciplinary program options, and all the other wonderful things we hear about during election season. 30,000 voices asking for something can get a lot done. 6,000 doesn’t have quite the same impact.
As it stands, those ideas are mostly empty promises that exec hopefuls use as platform points to get elected, but that never see the light of day because most of the students who would benefit from them simply don’t care.
Those who feel disillusioned with student governance do have some fair points. Election season consistently feels like déjà vu; all the platform points seem the same year after year and from one candidate to another. Half the candidates are only there for the sake of building their resumes. Most of the promises made seem lofty and far-fetched. Many candidates are Poli-Sci majors and a lot of students feel underrepresented as a result.
These are all true statements and are very real problems, but the onus is not entirely on the Students’ Union to fix them. If you’re frustrated that there are no candidates from your faculty, then you might think about throwing your name in the hat. Or if you don’t vote because you think the SU simply doesn’t work, then maybe you should help make it work a little better by voting. Then, at least you’ll have done your part and can legitimately complain to your heart’s content.
The problems with the SU do not originate from within the SU; they are caused by students not caring enough about their university to be bothered to vote. As long as that’s the case, you do not have the right to complain about the way things are. If you’re too lazy to so much as vote None of the Above on an online ballot that takes a solid 30 seconds to fill out, then you don’t get to criticize the student governance system, because you’re the root of the problem.
If you’re really disgusted with the Students’ Union as it is, if you want to give a massive middle finger to the whole system — and I occasionally find myself sympathizing entirely — then write a Gateway article and make your voice heard. Stop sulking and complaining to whichever of your friends will listen and do something constructive for a change.