This spring election season could simply be described, in today’s terms, as an epic fail.
The annual spring campus elections, held every year to decide on proposed student fee increases and student government representatives, fell short of the minimum voter turnout needed to pass four proposed student fee measures, proving that student apathy is on the rise when it comes to campus politics.
Out of the eligible 14,303 undergraduate and 1,416 graduate voters, only 19.97 percent took the time to vote online during the weeklong election that began May 13. Twenty-five percent of the eligible student population was needed to validate the votes.
Apathy toward politics, whether campus or statewide, is dangerous during times when money is scarce and important decisions have to be made about what we want to invest in and what we can decide to forgo.
In this election, we lost the opportunity to increase green education (Measure 39), extend the gym hours (Measure 40) and provide more support for the Sustainability Office (Measure 41).
Perhaps the most devastating defeat was of Measure 38, which proposed to renew an existing fee referendum to make UCSC a greener campus. It proposed to redirect the $135,000 generated from Measure 28, passed in 2006, which purchased renewable energy certificates to offset the campus’s electricity purchases.
If enough people voted to pass Measure 38, the $3 that comes from each UCSC student per quarter would have been directly used to create a more sustainable campus by purchasing on-site renewable energy sources and funding energy-saving projects.
Whether or not students wanted to tax themselves to support growing programs or student services that have been cut back due to budget cuts, a lack of voting merely sends a message that we don’t care.
We could blame it on the students who didn’t take the time to vote, or the lack of outreach and publicizing efforts compared to previous years. But what we really need is to do a better job of educating ourselves and others about the issues going on.
It’s not a time when we can afford to raise student fees anymore, but more than anything, we can’t afford to sit by the sidelines and not engage in the decision-making process — whether it’s participating in campus elections, fighting for programs and resources being cut, or voting in the statewide elections.
But if we don’t work together to take actions to control our education and economy, someone else will make the decisions for us.