Student politics breeds student apathy
Recently the Guild of Students held its annual elections, deciding on who would take a multi-million pound organisation, representing the needs and desires of students, into the future. It is thoroughly depressing then that only 3% of students voted for the President, with even fewer for other positions. The same can be seen with the NUS, very few people seem to give a damn about it any more. Why is this? My answer is that the majority of students who do engage with student politics, especially at the University of Birmingham, are idiots.
Most of this belief is based upon my own experience. The majority of candidates seem to be unable to speak in public and rouse interests, they focus on issues which are far too idealistic and appear worthless, but worst of all, they seem incredibly insulated from the other 97% of students. Rather than getting excited that others are challenging their ideas and wanting the best for the Guild, so many student politicians at the University of Birmingham have interpreted these debates as direct attacks on themselves. Sometimes they are and the blame also lies on those making the attack. However both are guilty of treating student politics as a game in which to massage their ego, seeing who can say the most and who can gain ‘power’.
Student politicians, like students, focus on their similarities, such as being part of a political party, sharing the same sporting interests, or interest in the lowest common denominator that is Fab ‘n’ Fresh. What is overlooked though is the most fundamental similarity of all, we’re all students. When you discriminate against people because they don’t share the same views as you means you miss out on the chance of meeting so many new and different people. I came to University to try new experiences not to meet more people who are very similar to me. Student politicians remain part of these groups, making it incredibly difficult for other students to become engaged, let alone with friends, with them.
Maybe all universities share this apathy? No. Warwick University recently held their elections and had a turn out of nearly 20%. There are many other factors involved with elections, but the most basic thing is the people you are voting for. No wonder so many students stay away from elections, where those who are running seem to have ulterior motives and only show an interest in the electorate for their ability to vote. Maybe instead of promoting their own interests candidates need to start treating the electorate as potential friends, getting to know them out of a sincere interest of who they are, rather than what they can offer them. But then again, maybe I’m just being too idealistic…