Opinion

Put your vote where your mouth is

Last time we did this elections thing, 493 of you voted. That was back in February when we elected Program Board and Financial Affairs Committee Chairs. 493 people. That’s about 25 percent of the student body. We did a little better last Spring when 709 of you voted, which brought our participation rate up to a whopping 35 percent. Are you proud of these numbers? Do only 35 percent of you care about how your money is spent and how your voice is represented? Do only 35 percent of you have opinions about the ice rink? What about recent staffing decisions? Do only 35 percent of you wish to have your voice heard as MCSG contemplates a response? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

The reasons people choose not to vote are often well-founded, if not predictable. In my four years on MCSG, I’ve probably heard them all. Chief among them is a lack of information about candidates. Without information on which to base an informed decision, MCSG elections become popularity contests. True. That’s why each candidate submits a 250-word platform outlining their specific plans, which is then disseminated via MCSG’s social media and included in the ballot itself. That’s why we also hosted a forum on Wednesday in JBD in which each candidate read a prepared statement and responded to questions from the audience. Didn’t make the forum? Check out our website for YouTube videos of the responses. If this isn’t enough information, then contact the candidates directly and ask them your own questions. Encourage others to do the same. Democracy doesn’t happen passively.

Other times, though, people feel disenchanted with MCSG as a whole and seek to express that by not voting. This is understandable. God knows MCSG ain’t perfect. And it can be intimidating approaching an administrative body on campus. But we’re your peers, we’re volunteers, and we want to do better. So, tell us what you don’t like and be specific. MCSG, like all institutions, grows through the thoughtful criticism of its constituents.

Some folks aren’t sure what MCSG does, then assume that it’s not transparent, and then decide not to vote out of apathy. This is also valid, and the burden of proof always falls on MCSG to prove that it is transparent. But don’t conflate lack of transparency with “I didn’t know”. Our meetings are public and anyone can come and speak, our minutes are published weekly, we send out weekly meeting summaries through the Daily Piper, Executive Board members hold regular office hours, and we maintain a formidable presence online through social media. Could we do better? Of course. Have an idea? Tell us!

Others, perhaps a small minority, don’t believe in the democratic process and actively resist any form of student governance. That’s fine too. Just consider the ramifications of this next time someone mentions the ice rink.

And of course some of you do vote. Some of you do participate in discourse about student governance on campus. Some of you do approach us thoughtfully with issues and seek our input and guidance. To each of you: you have my profound gratitude. MCSG and Macalester are stronger because of your participation.

On Monday, April 8 and Tuesday, April 9, you’ll be asked to vote in the MCSG Executive Elections. You’ll be asked to choose a President, Vice President, Academic Affairs Committee Chair, and Student Organizations Committee Chair. You’ll receive a ballot through your email and everyone, including seniors, can vote. Our generation has often been described as apathetic and listless. But since when has Macalester been apathetic and listless? Not last November when two harmful and discriminatory amendments were proposed to the Minnesota Constitution. And not on Monday and Tuesday when we choose the MCSG Executive Board for 2013-2014. So think about it, do some research and vote. Otherwise, kindly consider shutting up.

April 5, 2013

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