EDITORIALS

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April 5, 2011

Walk the campaign trail

The best way to improve student government is to get involved

It’s that time of year again: Today marks the deadline for all petitions to run for slate, undergraduate liaison, and class representative in the upcoming Student Government (SG) elections. After petitions are submitted, candidates will have two weeks to campaign before voting begins on April 19. Sidewalks will be chalked, posters will be pinned and spread across dining hall tables, and, for a frenzied few days, candidate platforms will be highly publicized.

However, elections usually induce more sighs and shrugs than energy and excitement. For a student body that calls for more effective representation throughout the year, response during election week is characterized by nonchalant resignation. The various requests muttered in dorms and coffeeshops—more speakers on campus, more engaging social life, more student input on dining options—are seldom articulated in the one arena specifically designed to address them. It has come to the point where both running for and caring about student government are stigmatized.

The upcoming election is an opportunity for students to rise out of apathy and express the issues that they want to be heard. Attending debates, taking the time to read candidate statements, and actively researching viable solutions to campus problems should be expected and encouraged, not scoffed at. If students fail to do these things, they shouldn’t be surprised when results don’t meet expectations.

SG is, naturally, chosen by the student body; as a result, when students don’t care, bad student government becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lackluster representatives are often the result of lackluster participation. When students fail to take an active interest in SG, the outcome is clear. SG positions are reduced to résumé fodder for ambitious candidates who subsequently face no pressure to live up to their promises of improving campus life. Fortunately, there are plenty of avenues by which students can affect the election process and prevent this from happening: Sharing grievances, helping the campaigns of preferred candidates, and making sure friends are informed are all effective ways of bringing out the best in SG candidates and improving accountability.

And if none of these options sound appealing, the solution is even simpler: Run. Thirty signatures are all that stand between you and the chance to implement your vision of a better U of C experience. There is virtually nothing to lose by running; the downsides of defeat pale in comparison to the positive effects competition and increased dialogue will have on the election.

In the past year, we’ve had a student government that has laid a foundation for better representation in the future by increasing student forums and improving administrative transparency. If we want future representatives to build on their success, we mustn’t succumb to the apathy, cynicism, and disinterest that have so often characterized the election process. We must remind ourselves that change begins and ends with us.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional editorial board member.

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