Students at Lewis & Clark often purport to be politically engaged in national politics and tend to be opinionated on political issues. Yet, only 24% of the student body voted in this year’s Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) Senate elections, just over 500 out of 2,106 students. Students do not seem to care much about local-level politics that affect them. As an elected senator, I want to have the mandate of more than a few hundred students. Ideally, all students should vote in school elections and be engaged with what is happening on campus. ASLC is meant to be the voice of the student body, but right now we are only the voice of a fourth of the student body. I think there are failings to be found on both sides and we all need to work to promote a culture of engagement with LC politics.
Being involved with ASLC, I will be the first to admit we need to improve our outreach to students. Students cannot be blamed for not engaging with something they do not understand. In short, the two most important things that ASLC does are allocating student fee money to things like SAAB and clubs and being a voice for students in institutional decisions such as transportation and tuition. ASLC plays an important role in student affairs, but we need to do a better job of showing this to the student body. Right now we are working hard to plan more outreach events, such as the churro truck that ASLC has brought to campus the last few years. And we are going to put more guidelines in the ASLC constitution about more outreach to the student body. As a senator, improving ASLC’s engagement with the student body is one of my goals, and I hope that it greatly improves throughout the year.
As much as ASLC needs to improve outreach, it can be hard to reach out to a student body that can, at times, be apathetic and disengaged from the broader issues on campus. This issue goes beyond voter turnout, but turnout is one easily understood metric to show how little students care about campus politics. Imagine if only 24% of the U.S. population decided to vote in the presidential election; we would all be outraged. But through lack of action, the student body has effectively allowed school elections to be decided by those few people. Voter participation has also slightly improved over time. The Spring 2018 Cabinet elections saw only 11% participation, but Spring 2019 voter participation was up to 27%. I will also concede that even 24% participation is above the national average for college campuses. But this is LC, and I know we can do better than that.
If you feel inspired to get more involved with ASLC, there a couple of ways you can do so. All Senate meetings are open to the public and you can attend those to voice your opinion and see what we do. We will also be tabling in J.R. Howard Hall and outside the Bon and you can come talk with an ASLC representative there. If you want to take a more active role, any student can serve on ASLC’s committees. You can check out the ASLC website, aslclark.org, to find descriptions of what the committees do and access the brief applications. Several current senators will be studying abroad next semester, so there will be senate seats open soon. I encourage anyone interested to run for Senate. If you do not want to be that involved but still want to keep up with everything ASLC does, make sure to follow ASLC on Instagram and keep an eye out for a new ASLC newsletter that should be launching soon.
I respect my peers deeply, and I know that there is a wealth of intelligence and thoughtful opinion on this campus. I think that it is high time for more students to act on these opinions, vote in ASLC elections and engage with the community around them. Cabinet elections are coming up this spring, and I am going to work hard as part of ASLC to increase voter turnout. While ASLC is putting in the effort to improve, I hope that students can also put in the effort to pay attention, to vote and to be engaged with the community around them.
“Quentin Gaul ’22 is a member of the ASLC Senate. The opinions expressed in this article are her own and do not represent those of ASLC.”