By David Song, February 26 2015 —
Students stay busy. There’s a constant stream of academic work and for most of us, the classroom is a major source of stress. It’s easy to see why voter turnout in the Students’ Union election is low. Last year, only 28.8 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls. The number was only a one per cent increase from the year before.
The University of Calgary is also a commuter campus. In 2012, only eight per cent of students lived in residence. The rest are people like me, who commute to school for class. We might stick around for some extracurricular activities, but the bulk of our time is spent off campus.
It’s true that undergraduate students have a lot on our plates, and we can’t be blamed for declining to make MacHall the centre of our lives. But that doesn’t mean we get a free pass to ignore the SU.
They’re one of few liaisons between students and administration. As an organization, the SU speaks on behalf of our shared interests — affordable tuition, legalized secondary suites and better student services. They manage the university’s most important student services and are the reason students have affordable health care, can get cheap textbooks and can catch a movie on Monday nights.
But it’s hard to get a good sense of what students want when most of us couldn’t be bothered to take five minutes and fill out a ballot. This isn’t the SUs fault. The lack of voter turnout is on us. The SU is making important decisions without those choices being truly representative of student wants.
A referendum in last year’s election asked students if they would approve a MacHall redevelopment fee. This fee would have given the SU more control over MacHall. If you attend the U of C, chances are that you pass through MacHall everyday.
Ultimately, 61 per cent of voters turned the fee down, but that 61 per cent represents only around 17.5 per cent of the student body. It’s likely that more than 20 per cent of the student body use MacHall on a daily basis, and all other students should have had the option to say yes or no.
The result of the referendum doesn’t matter. The problem is that it wasn’t a representative decision. If we want the SU’s decisions to represent us, we have to buy into democracy on campus.
The commuter campus excuse is wearing thin. Whether you’re on campus for three hours a day or 13, the U of C is our school. We’re given an important say in how it’s run, and it’s easy to get educated on the basics of student politics. You can read candidate’s platforms on the SU website. The Gauntlet has an election supplement with reviews and endorsements. CJSW interviews all of the candidates. There are forums in MacHall where you can ask the candidates questions, and they’ll respond to email and Facebook messages. There’s no excuse for not voting.
And even if you think it’s a complete waste of time, filling out a ballot takes less than five minutes. There’s even a giant button on your student centre that reminds you to vote.
You’re getting a degree from this place. It’s the least you can do.