In recent years, there have been more and more universities forced to extend the election period for their student government due to fewer and fewer students exercising their right to vote. The poor participation of college students in electing their student government has been constantly mentioned in the media. And news of the young generation’s indifference towards politics and elections has been a criticism that many university students cannot escape from.
But is it fair to put the blame entirely on the voters for their indifference and low participation in the student elections? Indeed, students’ indifference is a problem. But pointing only to this is merely seeing the surface of the problem and not seeing what lies beneath. To get a better understanding of the problem, we need to first think about what might have caused the students’ indifference. Asking the question, “Why are students not interested in choosing a student government?” can be a good start.
The reason why students are uninterested is not because there are far more important things in their life such as getting a job. Nor is it because the students think politics and elections are too complicated or boring. Rather, it is simply because students do not consider the student government as effective in making the school hear their voices. Whichever public pledges they come up with, students know that these pledges will eventually be crushed by the school. So why bother to vote? Although the student government’s ineffectiveness can arise from the approach the student government takes when confronting the school administration, it can also come from the way the school perceives the student government.
One Ewha student pointed out during an interview that she does not think that the student government has equal standing with the school administration, even when they are at the negotiation table. Recognizing that there is a problem with the status of the student government, last year a candidate running for president of the student government association claimed that she would strive to change the status quo. We at the Ewha Voice think she had the right approach.
If universities do not perceive the student government as a negotiating partner and hardly allow any room for compromise, the “ineffective” activities of the student government will continue to disappoint students and lead to continued low participation in the elections. Thus, the vicious cycle will continue.
Universities should perceive their student governments more as a partner and negotiator than as a small group of disgruntled students. That way, more constructive discussions between the school administration and student government could take place, which may lead to more satisfying results. With many of their wants and needs being met, students would realize how effective and relevant the student government could be to their college life. Perhaps the chronic problem of low participation in student government election could be resolved.