March 27 and 28 are specially marked on my Google Calendar. Although I’m sure my Facebook newsfeed won’t fail to blow up with constant pleas, I want to make sure I don’t forget. I know I’ll see the creative new hashtags for the occasion as I scroll down Twitter, but I don’t want to somehow still miss it.
So what’s the big deal with those two dates? It’s the Central Student Government elections, and I have to cast my votes.
Unfortunately, fewer than 20 percent of you are likely to do the same.
I haven’t been bribed by anyone to support CSG; I’m completely unaffiliated with student government in any way and just genuinely take interest in its actions. Whenever this is discussed, however, I’m met with raised eyebrows. My friends involved with CSG go out of their way to keep me in the loop because too often their efforts fall on deaf ears. After all, isn’t it weird that I actually care?
A few quick clicks through Wolverine Access tells me that $7.19 of my tuition this term alone went to CSG. That’s the cost of a large pizza, and, with more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students at the University, that adds up. This money helps student organizations to carry out their passions, it puts on awesome events like pep rallies before home football games and it helps students get to the airport for cheap through the airBus service.
But CSG is about more than just the funding. In the past year alone, members of CSG have aimed to make our campus safer and more comfortable. Current CSG President Manish Parikh has followed through on one of his campaign promises for a 24-hour café, and now Bert’s at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library does not shut down at any time between Sunday morning and Thursday night. Several representatives have also played a key role in getting the medical amnesty bill through the Michigan legislature, indicating a commitment to the safety of not only students on this campus but all over the state.
So, our student government leaders make some pretty big things happen. Good for them, and let them do their thing — right? It’s not that simple. American politics functions on popular involvement and CSG is no different. CSG is made up of an executive board, commissions and an assembly of representatives from each school. But without student body support, it’s not always clear whom exactly these representatives represent. Involvement in campus political organizations is often a stepping-stone into future political careers for many of these students. Why not at least help them along their goals while we can, especially if it’s as easy as reading a few platforms and clicking a button?
Fine. CSG can be productive, and the people involved in it are really passionate. But what about all these parties? forUM, momentUM, youMICH — it’ll take a lot of time to figure out the platforms of each of them before the election. Maybe we’ll see more parties pop up (with more creative plays on the University’s name to boot). Maybe, like last year, we’ll see an independent candidate push to head CSG. And after all the campaigning, research and propaganda, many students may wind up at the cynical conclusion: “There’s no point. They’re all the same.”
That’s OK. At the scale of the University, it’s true that nearly everyone involved with student government wants the same thing: to make this campus a better place for every student. As cliché as it sounds, there’s a lot of weight to that statement. Wherever there are politics, cynicism closely follows. It doesn’t necessarily matter who you vote for. Sure, everyone has differences, and that’s why these elections can become so hotly contested. Ultimately, though, it’s more important that students participate in the elections and vote. Period.
All students have a say in this matter. A majority of us will see the campaigning on Facebook and the chalking across the Diag. But hardly a quarter of us will act on what we see in two weeks, and an even smaller proportion will care enough during the rest of the year to see what student government is up to.
We go to one of the greatest universities in the world, and we continue to produce some of the world’s most ambitious alumni every year. CSG not only provides a powerful platform for developing the skills of those who are involved in it, but it also seeks to nurture all students on this campus and help them to be safe and successful during their time here and beyond. On March 27 or 28, I’ll show that I care and will cast my votes. Will you?
Hema Karunakaram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.