Students who don’t vote shouldn’t criticize

At its core, a democratic system relies upon participation by the people. Our present understanding of democracy stems from the Ancient Greek system of demokratia which is based upon the theory that power rests with the people; demos meaning people and kratia meaning power. Demokratia, a system of direct democracy whereby decisions were made by the masses, has since become impractical in nations with large populations and therefore has been replaced by contemporary representative democracy. Yet the fundamentals of the system have largely remained unchanged. Rather than direct participation, the people have now been given the right to vote in elections to determine those who govern and represent them. Thus, the people have been charged with the responsibility to elect those they see as best representing their views.

This responsibility rings true at Laurier just as it does in a democratic society. Every February, students are afforded the opportunity to vote in free and fair elections to determine the leadership of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union among other positions and issues. Students have the chance to learn about candidates and their views through the publication of platforms, discussions at open forums and through general interaction with candidates themselves. Similarly, the opportunity to run for a position in WLUSU is open to every undergraduate student at Laurier. Nevertheless, when it comes to elections, an increasing number of students are content with being apathetic toward the process.

In recent years, voter turnout at WLU has been abysmal. Students who approach me with concerns about how the Union operates or spends their money are typically met with my own question to them: “Did you vote?” Too often, students respond by saying that their vote doesn’t matter or won’t make a difference. This could not be further from the truth as encompassed within the right to vote is the right to criticize. Only 20 per cent of students at Laurier choose to exercise their democratic right and vote to decide not only who governs them, but how they want their union to operate. Fewer still decide to run for positions in WLUSU to change aspects they don’t agree with. It is important to realize that merely meeting the financial obligation on your tuition bill by paying the student union fee is only a portion of your responsibility as a student. Only by exercising one’s right to vote can you truly be considered to have “bought in” to WLUSU.

Voting not only allows you a say in the type of students’ union you want to see, but also provides legitimacy to those elected. Consequently, this legitimacy provides a means for accountability. Should your representatives not be fulfilling their duties, it not only becomes your right, but your responsibility to take action. Accountability is necessary in every democratic system, however it cannot be present without participation by the electorate.

The simple reality is this: it is not the critic who counts. It is far easier to sit back and find fault than to be proactive and affect change. It is the sad reality that this is the position that most students at Laurier choose to take. If you truly want to make a difference and hold your student government to its word, exercise your right as a student and vote on February 2nd and 3rd. By doing so you can affect change, ensure accountability and preserve your right to criticize.