The recent drama surrounding the Central Student Government elections has made a lot of people, including me, lose faith in the campaign promises we may have voted for. With student politicians only seeming to care about, well, politics, it isn’t clear what improvements, if any, might actually be made on this campus. And what about the 76 percent of students who didn’t even vote in these elections? For many, there’s uncertainty about how campus can be safer and more comfortable for everyone.
But, here’s the secret I’ve slowly discovered over the past few semesters here: we shouldn’t have to look toward any student organizations, CSG or otherwise, to speak up for us. Sure, groups standing in solidarity may achieve greater goals in the long run than an individual. But that doesn’t mean one person can’t take a small step in the right direction by themselves.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about the low-quality food that I and many others on campus have encountered in the University dining halls. In addition to my column, I also sent in a formal complaint via the online dining feedback system.
Within one week, my inbox contained personal apologies from the manager of South Quad Residence Hall’s dining hall, the associate vice president of the University’s Division of Student Affairs and the senior associate director of University Housing. The latter invited me to meet in person in the next week to discuss concerns and suggestions I have.
I’m not any kind of specialist in dining, nor am I any sort of serial activist that routinely takes on such pet projects. I’m just a student that has used two particular privileges: providing feedback to University dining and submitting an article to this newspaper. So why am I hearing back from so many administrators and being asked to help make changes with the problems I’ve observed?
Because I’ve taken advantage of these privileges — resources that, in fact, every student on this campus has. What holds so many people back from speaking up about things on this campus that they don’t like?
It’s true that not every concern falls upon ears that want to listen. I’ve seen plenty of students struggle with serious issues such as financial aid and racial profiling whose complaints haven’t been properly addressed by administrators. But there are just as many students, if not more, who whine to their friends instead of anyone who could actually help. One of the best things about this university is that for nearly every problem there are a multitude of resources to reach out to.
In light of recent events, for many, student government may no longer be one of those resources. But plenty of other resources are just a quick Google search away.
There’s always someone to talk to. If you don’t feel close enough to your residential advisor or you find your professor intimidating or you aren’t sure who your student government representatives are, there is someone out there who can help you that is just a phone call or e-mail away. You don’t have to fall in the trap of failed political campaigns and broken promises for campus improvement to feel like you are being heard. We shouldn’t need to rely on anyone else to speak for us — if you want to see a change, ask for it yourself.
Hema Karunakaram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.