In a few days’ time, students will once again vote for the next batch of government officers in the DLSU. Once again, the school will swell with students clad in bright colors sharing their platforms here and there, crossing their arms firmly, nodding left, right, and middle and ending their speeches with battle cries of their political party. And yet, once again, I find myself pondering whether all of this is really worth it.
The recent years have not painted a pretty picture for DLSU student politics. Just a recap for those unaware: in 2015, the University Student Government (USG) saw one of its worst election turnouts when it posted a 35.90 percent participation rate—a little over one in three students marched to the precincts to cast their ballot. This was after a series of controversies marred the campaign period, resulting in the ineligibility of a political party’s entire slate.
A Special Elections was held the following academic year to ll the seats left vacant; it saw a slightly larger voter turnout of 55.70 percent. The two years that followed generated roughly similar statistics, ending at 56.31 percent and 54.41 percent, but they, too, were met with their fair share of scandals.
Staunch critics of the USG and student politics in general would tell you this is nothing more than a popularity contest for the parties. The candidates and the eventual incumbents are simply bee ng up their resume for better chances at good career prospects after college rather than selflessly performing a service for their fellow students as they would have you believe. Because of this, it would be better not to have the USG at all. The recent turnouts certainly do show that a number of students hold that opinion. Is having subpar representation, then, better than having no representation at all? The assumption here is that the USG is the be all and end all of student representation in the University, and, without them, we lay helpless to fend for ourselves. If they are gone, who would stand for us on issues with student rights? Who would negotiate with the administration when we are presented with unfair tuition fee increases? Who would champion us when we are pushed with an unwanted change in the academic calendar?
But that does not mean that we should settle for the choices we are given just so we have some form of representation. The recent turnout is a sign that change needs to happen not only in the student government, but in the student body as well. It is not fair to ask the candidates to change their ways if the voters would still remain disconnected to the issues being presented to them.
Cliche as it sounds, the change has to begin within ourselves before we can take strides in fixing an arguably broken system.
At the end of the day, it is important that the student body is reminded of the power they possess as an electorate. While students are by no means obligated to vote—suffrage, after all, is a right, not a duty—choosing not to vote can be seen as a sign of an apathetic student body unconcerned with the larger forces at play. On the other hand, it could instead be a sign of an educated student body making an informed decision, signifying that they are not satisfied with the choices presented to them. After all, choosing not vote is, in an ironic way, a kind of vote in itself.