College of DuPage's student newspaper | Est. 1967

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Letter: Student elections raise bigger questions

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Your recent article on the student elections and lack of student involvement touched on a number of issues I think deserve consideration. They’re issues that beg deep philosophical questions like, “what is the role of a government?” and “why aren’t people voting?” And while I can’t say I have definitive answers to those questions I do have suggestions and opinions regarding them. The first issue I thought of after reading the article was student involvement. The vast majority of students aren’t involved in “campus issues” as the article points out but rather than place the blame on students, I am firmly convinced the burden of engagement lies squarely on the shoulders of SLC. Let me explain my case. SLC, for all intents and purposes is a government and it is the duty of a government to represent the will of its constituents. With this in mind, what motivation has SLC provided students for engagement? Most students at COD couldn’t tell you who the president and vice president of SLC are and equally few would be able to name the student trustee. Is this because those positions are inherently powerless? Absolutely not. The student trustee and SLC president enjoy greater access to administration, faculty, media and the Board of Trustees than any other student on campus. What they lack in organizational power they more than make up for in influence. In short: the student trustee and SLC president are often the only students higher ups at this college will ever hear from before making an important decision. And in my mind, it’s that important fact that tells me everything I need to know about student involvement. Because if you consistently fail to represent the interests of those you were elected to represent, you shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t see a reason to get involved with your organization. Instead of “bombarding” students with marketing, provide some value to the student body. Much like politicians, student organizations “run on their record,” meaning they are most successful when they can point to positive projects they are responsible for. SLC needs to start building a record to run on rather than focus on advertising. The second question that came to my mind was the poor turnout of student elections. To my mind, moving student elections to ChapLife, a website few students have even heard of, will be an unmitigated disaster. And that is honestly a shame because the cornerstone of effective representation is good turnout. Fewer than a thousand students voted when ballots were distributed to their student email and EVERY student has a student email. By comparison, an absurdly small number of students have ChapLife accounts. Expanding the franchise and having inclusive elections should be the chief concern of the Office of Student Life. How can they do this? In a few different ways actually. I suggest expanding the election period from two days to a full school week. Many students are unavailable during specific times and this will allow a great many more students to vote. Secondly I suggest putting physical polling places on campus during election week and reinstating email ballots. We need to allow MORE students to vote, not fewer and putting a polling place on campus will put that opportunity right in front of thousands of students. Email ballots will address the issue of transition. The transition from email to ChapLife has been a graceless one. Transitions take time; they require awareness campaigns and grace periods. Reinstating email ballots until most students have a ChapLife account is critical in expanding the franchise. Ultimately it’s too late to solve either of these problems for this election but it’s important that we try anyway for those who will attend COD long after we’ve left. Maintaining an inclusive institution at this college is our responsibility and it will insure students are heard when it matters.

 

-Haroon Atcha, Student

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College of DuPage's student newspaper | Est. 1967
Letter: Student elections raise bigger questions