The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

The base of student self-governance

Low voter turnout for elections shows the apathy of students toward self-governance

Once again, spring elections are upon us. Elections will be held from Feb. 16 to Feb. 27. Many students do not know or care that spring elections are upcoming because the Honor Committee, University Judiciary Committee, Student Council and class councils have failed to remain relevant to the everyday life of students. The Honor Committee and UJC are entities most students try very hard to avoid during their time at the University. Student Council has many initiatives but most only affect a certain group of students. If student self-governance is to be said to exist at the University, it must be practiced at the most basic level of participation by electing those representatives who govern us.

In the past The Cavalier Daily has criticized the University Board of Elections for not adequately publicizing elections. Turnout fell from 28 percent in the 2007 spring elections to 22 percent in 2008. Despite its responsibility for raising awareness of spring elections among the student body, ultimately this decrease in voter turnout can only be explained by voter apathy. For a university that so often extols the virtues of student self-governance, this is troubling. Only 22 percent of students played a role in electing the leaders student self-governance in the past year.

If student self-governance is only meant to imply that the University’s judiciary organizations are run by students, that is very little to be proud of. By the time first-year students arrive at the University, almost all are legal adults. That students at this University take on adult responsibilities while students at other schools are governed by their professors is not so much a unique virtue of this University as it is a source of shame for everyone else. Student self-governance should mean that all students take part in administering the governance of the University and this is currently not the case.

If students are going to vote in elections, they must first feel invested in the system of student self-governance. For the Honor Committee and UJC, this means allowing more student participation. While students are randomly selected for juries, with so many students this is unlikely to involve everyone during their time at the University. Education about these two entities should be re-worked so more students want to be involved. Honor education presentations currently lack the ability to get anyone excited about the Honor Committee who was not already interested in it. Students should feel more ownership of these organizations and in order for this to occur these organizations must work to show how they are relevant to students. Concerning Student Council, the University Unity Project, if successful, is the best avenue for increasing student involvement. The original goal of the Unity Project was to have as close to 100 percent participation as possible; the current voter apathy toward elections shows this is much needed at the University.

If students feel more invested in the Honor Committee, UJC and Student Council, participation in elections will increase dramatically. We can only truly realize the ideal of student self-governance when all University students contribute to it.

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