Participation and process

Steve Nordin

Editor’s note: Steven Nordin is chairperson of the Polling, Elections and Leadership Committee of LUCC. The views expressed here are his own, not those of LUCC or its other representatives.Last week, my colleagues and friends on the staff of The Lawrentian took issue with the publicity of the LUCC Executive Election and the manner in which it was run.
While the staff editorial was well written, I believe that Evan Williams’s article addressed the issue more completely. In his article, Williams took issue with the perspective that LUCC is a “club for aspiring politicians to practice the art of legislation and manipulation.”
While my inner Machiavelli would like LUCC even more if this were the case, my personal experience suggests that motions to approve Sinister Plot IV.a.2 are rather sparse.
Williams’s interpretation of LUCC as a group of dedicated and motivated people often resigned to dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” within the organization’s constitution is an astute observation. The elections reflect this. I was in charge of the elections – for representatives in the fall and for executives this term.
The elections began with both the cabinet and the executives hoping for the greatest voter turnout ever and ongoing student interest throughout the year. I, as the official responsible, will accept fully the charge that the election results did not reach these goals.
Was the election contested? No. Was there high voter turnout? No. Was it representative of the collective opinion of Lawrence students and faculty? No.
The natural follow-up question is “Why?”
The view in the staff editorial as well as that of many students and faculty is that the officials of LUCC are responsible. While I acknowledge that I may have slight personal bias, I respectfully disagree with this view and provide an alternative. Consider the following facts:
In the Fall General Election, applications were available for an extended period of time and their presence extensively advertised. Despite this, I had to personally track down colleagues after the deadline had passed to find candidates for unfilled representative positions.
Applications for President and Vice-President were available during the final weeks of Fall Term and were due Jan. 9. Of these, approximately 16 were taken and two were returned. This resulted in an uncontested election. I don’t think this affected the quality of candidates, as J.R. Vanko and Carl Byers are both very competent members of LUCC and I expect they will accomplish quite a bit in their term.
Unfortunately, the futility of voting for a candidate running uncontested was cited by voters as a reason to not to participate at all. Though I used catchy government-major phrases like “democratic mandate” and “obligation to the process,” many students laughed and returned a blank ballot. Honestly, I can’t blame them.
As we have seen from Andrew Hintzman’s controversial and well-written articles about refusing to vote in U.S. elections, it is very difficult for an outside party to motivate someone to participate. The voter has to personally want to vote.
Now the lovely word every angry go-getter levels at his or her peers emerges: apathy. I will indulge in using it too.
I am not saying that we Lawrentians are a listless, uncaring bunch. You only need to look at the comments section of this newspaper’s website to see that we’re pretty passionate about certain things, if not always the most eloquent.
However, this passion tends to be ex post facto. It’s easier to write an angry article or complain about something that has set back your particular pet project than to run for an LUCC post or to get involved in a broader campus dialogue. I’m guilty of this too. As my editor can attest, the first version of this article could be described as nothing less than a vitriolic rant for perceived personal slights rather than constructive criticism.
Every year, every active member of every organization criticizes apathy. Guess what? We are all members of and the ones responsible for the greater Lawrence community.
If you want the “Lawrence Bubble” of inaction and isolation to pop, so to speak, it has to start with you getting involved with groups like LUCC, not just your personal projects.
While some professors believe LUCC was initially designed to prevent angry Lawrentians from storming academic buildings and unappreciatively consuming the administration’s brandy and cigars, it has over the years gained the ability to convey the weight of student opinion.
For too long this powerful ability has been ignored.
LUCC is deeply involved with our collective experience here at Lawrence. If you take issue with the housing lottery, how the smoking ban is set and enforced, how much funding your group receives or how the VR is run, LUCC is the venue for discussion, not a table at the Grill. I hope that President Vanko and Vice-President Byers have a successful term. If you have issues with certain aspects of student life here at Lawrence, talk to them or your LUCC representatives.
Individualized learning does not mean living in a vacuum. It means personal responsibility for your environment. It’s time we all start taking that responsibility.