In the next few days, courtesy of our Concordia Student Union, we will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum that will determine future plans for the university, including funding for the controversial student centre.
Hopefully, more than 10 per cent of you show up.
Low voter turnout seems to be the real tradition of Concordia elections. Regardless of association level (ASFA, CSU or other), Concordia students continue to proudly not care about voting on issues that will affect their place of learning. All of the time, effort and cash put towards running an election seems to have little effect on the voting population at Concordia.
Look at last month’s ASFA by-election. Only 393 students voted, out of about 17,000 arts and science undergraduate students. Even with an aggressive Facebook campaign, along with in-school advertising, just under 3 per cent of eligible students made their voice heard. The CSU election in March showed slightly better numbers. About 3,200 students cast their ballots, but that’s still less than 10 per cent of the student body.
The kind of student empathy is inevitable and understandable. Student politics has proven repeatedly to be a real time waster. The administration makes a decision, student groups protest, the administration does nothing. And students have to go back to writing papers and taking exams. Deep down, most of us do actually care about the fact that we are getting screwed, but it seems futile when our administration does not even consult the students. The very institutions set up to defend our rights act more like puppet governments; spouting messages of anger in the student media and failing to do anything else.
To put things in perspective, most students’ journey through Concordia ends after three or four years. The very groundwork of our decisions means almost nothing to us in the end. The very new buildings we now occupy are the result of negotiations and credit fee increases voted for by students who are now alumni.
It does not help the fact that most candidates are not selected on record of accomplishment in matters of student life policy. Instead, it is a popularity contest, on who is more photogenic, and more eloquent as a speaker. Is the leadership of our school really based on how many friends someone has on Facebook?
Pierre Elliott Trudeau is regarded as one of, if not the greatest, prime ministers of our country. He was articulate and camera-friendly, but he also stood for something. He believed in certain ideals, and worked hard to make them a part of Canada. Real government is about co-operation and hard work. More importantly, it is about standing up, in the face of the opposition, to defend what is right. When students look to their student government leaders, shouldn’t they see Trudeau, Churchill, or Lincoln?
If we had a charismatic and strong leader who was able to mobilize students to get active, and at the minimum, just vote, our political system would be more effective.
While it seems that the voting process is ineffective, and the choices we are presented are limited, that does not somehow negate our obligation as citizens of Concordia. The system is far from perfect, but in order to make it better, we can longer just moan about how everything is going to the toilet and then fail to exercise our democratic right.