Editor’s note: Statements and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not be shared by the staff and management at The Torch.
Our nation’s political climate has been constricted by a toxic cloud of sensationalism this election year. Between the socialist, bird-loving Bernie Sanders and the platinum-haired Donald Trump, American citizens that have become weary of the same ol’ political talking heads and are fanatically drawing lines in the sand.
Protests have erupted in violence, parties have fractured and many memes have been shared on Facebook with extreme prejudice. In this time of political frothing, it may be easy to forget that local — and school — politics are also very important to our day-to-day lives. This may be why this year’s ASLCC election turnout was pathetically low.
Only 90 votes were counted for this year’s ASLCC election, according to Christina Walsh, ASLCC’s leadership director. This is out of the 9,063 Lane students that were eligible to vote — meaning they were taking at least one credit on the school’s main campus — according to the Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning department’s enrollment data from the 2014-2015 school year.
Now, I may have failed Algebra 2, but I have enough mathematical knowledge to conclude that less than one percent of students voted in this year’s election. This is beyond disappointing. Last year, 444 students voted, according to Walsh. While that number is still less than ideal, it is over four times this year’s turnout.
The turnout was so low, in fact, that I — Keasey Freed — was elected as a write-in senator after what amounted to a 15-minute satirical campaign in The Torch office. At the time of publication, I was not given the specific votes for each write-in candidate by ASLCC, though I honestly couldn’t have gotten more than seven votes.
What happened here? Did the larger-than-life national battlefield drain students of their political energy? I know that Oregon Student Association was hard at work registering students to vote in the national and state election this term, stopping by every class and hiding in every bush, waiting to pounce on the next unsuspecting passerby. Where was that campaigning by the ASLCC to get folks involved with student government?
I believe the fault lies with the current student government, and its failure to get students actively involved in Lane’s politics. These officials who claim to be the voice of the student body did nothing to inspire the Lane community to get involved.
Let’s face it, your average student in the Nursing Program, who is taking 14 credits a term, most likely isn’t going to realize the benefits of getting involved with student government. They may complain about the price of textbooks, the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms or the fact that they can’t vape on campus, but unless they are taught that student government exists solely to address those issues, they will feel voting isn’t worth their time. It should be the responsibility of those in power on campus to educate the students on the importance of student government.
Okay fine, you understand what student government is, but still don’t give a rat’s tail what they do. You are going to be out of here in two or three years, so why even bother getting involved in the bureaucratic system of a community college hidden in the woods?
Of course my first response would be that there are many disenfranchised groups of students who need support, such as the students involved in the Chinuk Wawa language classes, which are in danger of being cut after the Board of Education voted against a tuition hike. If you are a heartless utilitarian who sees no need in the preservation of a dying language, then I would argue, at the very least, to think of your wallet.
ASLCC gets the second-largest cut of the $56 Student Activity Fee each term — $9.14 — according to Lane’s website. This fee is paid by every credit student at Lane, whether that student is taking a one credit PE class, or 16 math and science credits.
Let’s do a bit of math here — if we take the 9,063 Lane students mentioned above and multiply that by the $9.14 they give to the ASLCC each term, we are looking at a whopping $82,835.82. A group on Lane’s main campus that a fraction of students care about gets over $80,000 each term, which adds up to almost $250,000 for fall, winter and spring terms.
Is it fair that ASLCC gets that much money, but doesn’t even attempt to show the student body what it goes towards? I don’t think so. Should every student on campus be involved when it comes to electing representatives that have control over that amount of money? I believe so.
I strongly urge the members of the ASLCC to reach out to the students at large, and show them what you are capable of. I also warn the students themselves, if the ASLCC does not want to reach out to you and be your voice, then it is time for a new ASLCC.
Get involved with Lane’s programs, culture and funding. Stand up to the system that takes thousands of dollars from you each term and say “No, I want gender-neutral bathrooms, I want free printing in the library, I want to preserve a dying language for generations to come.”
Wake up, ASLCC, and do what we pay you for.
— As a disclaimer, I must say that I only ran as a write-in candidate to see how easy it would be to get elected. After I found out that I got a seat on the senate, I immediately resigned. As a journalist, it would be a conflict of interest to be both a senator and editor for The Torch.