By Andrew Kemle, January 12, 2016 —
The University of Calgary student body often seems oblivious to the pressing issues surrounding it. Debate and calls for change on both issues at home and abroad are rare.
But if students want to stop being pushed around, this needs to change. If more people speak out, we may finally be heard.
With the exception of a charged townhall and a petition floating around, very few students seem upset about the controversies surrounding Elizabeth Cannon’s university administration. The petition has likely failed to gain any traction for this very reason. And that’s just one example of the apathy that’s so pervasive at this university — as students at other schools march and protest over much smaller sins, students here can barely muster the energy to simply pay attention.
This isn’t new. Students’ Union elections at the U of C usually draw a voter turnout of around 30 per cent, and despite this being one of the better turnouts in the country, this is still distressingly low. The only time in recent memory when the student population was politically mobilized was during Naheed Nenshi’s first mayoral run. But even that had more to do with his savvy use of social media than any real sense of student disillusionment.
This is a serious problem. As students, we have little clout, both with issues that directly affect us and with those that don’t. Older generations often view us as kids who don’t really care about the world around us. “Real adults” assume they know what’s best, and disregard our rare complaints or comments as anomalies that can be safely ignored. And by rarely speaking out, students make this a self-fulfilling prophecy
When a political or social issue involves the future of students, the viewpoint of students should be important. If a policy concerns how many professors we’ll have, how much money tuition costs, or even what the planet is going to look like when we turn 40, then our opinions and views should count for something. Students can even provide fresh ideas to problems that others may not be able to see.
But none of this will be possible if we remain quiet and passive. We don’t need to flood Ottawa and try to levitate Parliament with our collective anger, but rebelling against ideas we don’t like — or actively harm us — is a right we could stand to exercise a bit more often.
But just a few student voices won’t be enough to change the winds of politics. If anything, those voices won’t even be enough to prevent us from being completely ignored. It needs to be all of us. Or, at the very least, just a few voices more.