Don’t blame apathy for low participation

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Low turnout for student government elections and faculty senate elections is not a matter of apathetic students and faculty, but an issue of focus and inclusion.

Low turnout to the question and answer session during the student government elections is just one symptom of student disinterest. Andrea Whatcott/UVU Review

In a letter published last month, UVUSA President-elect Chris Loumeau lamented that students weren’t interested or involved enough in the political process at school.

He has a point.

Only two percent of the student body – roughly 700 of UVU’s 32,000 students – voted in the election. Loumeau ran unopposed and was ratified into office instead of elected, as one professor put it.

Last year, with two teams running for office, only 10 percent of the student body participated.  For a campus that prides itself on being liberal, open-minded and politically aware, it makes a poor showing at the polls.

This is not just limited to students; elections for Faculty Senate, the governing body that wields a great amount of power and assists President Holland in determining the strategic plan of the school, also only had one candidate run for office. Professors seemingly care as little as students do.

History professor William W. Cobb Jr. mentors several on-campus clubs, including the Students for Political Awareness club.

“I think that people get so focused on finishing their education, they don’t really appreciate the life of the student outside the classroom,” said Cobb. “They forget the other side that university is where they are trained to be a better citizen.”

He offers extensive extra credit to students who will go and participate in activities or events on campus as an encouragement for them to become more well-rounded and involved.

“To say that students are apathetic is disingenuous,” Cobb also said. “Underneath, no one’s apathetic. Underneath, they all care passionately.”

UVUSA Vice President Elect David Millet wants students to realize that student officers work on things that do have meaning, more than just handing out popcorn and arranging dances.

Sam Hadlock, who works with the Independent Branch of the Council, wants teachers to do as Professor Cobb has done and help students realize the value of the work that student government performs.

Millet points out projects that they are working on that will affect students. These projects include a free legal advisement center and improving the wait list for class registration, among others.

The student council also had a hand in arranging the practically free bus passes that everyone carries because students wanted them. Council members Millet, Hadlock and others welcome suggestions and try to respond to them.

Ultimately, it is up to the students to rouse themselves and go to work shaping their world, but a little assistance would go a long way in building up participation.

Sarah Rosenborough, who won a real election for her position as Vice President of Clubs, calls for “an unbiased person standing in the halls” informing students of each candidate and what they stand for.

That is what this school really needs: an individual or body whose sole task will be to inform voters about the candidates and issues in an unbiased manner.

Providing an easier way to include students and faculty in the political process on campus would allow them to bridge the gap between their focus on education and the desire to voice their concerns.

The faculty and students here just need a kick in the pants to motivate themselves to vote and have their say in campus politics.