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Filed under Opinion

The grind: Student government elections important

Look at you. You’re a smart, well-informed student on this campus. You pay attention to issues on campus – the Blugold Commitment, sustainability, the new student center – and you care. You’re good looking, motivated … a catch, to be sure. And best of all, you’ve got a date next week, to vote in the Student Senate elections on campus.

Student Senate elections are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. We don’t need to spend these column inches debating the finer points of the candidates’ platforms. For that, you can read pages 4A, 5A and 6A of this newspaper, e-mail the candidates or, better yet, stop by the Student Senate office in room 132B of Davies Center.

After all that’s happened this year – the Council Oak tree, the new student center, the Blugold Commitment - it’s especially important for students to cast votes that ensure their voices are heard. This campus will undergo a lot of changes in the next several years, and we need responsible student leaders to see those changes through.

Better than just casting a vote would be to apply for any vacant positions that might remain. Participate in democracy and make an impact on this campus. This goes especially for international students, minority students, anyone who has felt marginalized on this campus. While diversity certainly is more than skin deep, Student Senate has exactly one non-white member. UW-Eau Claire’s student government body should reflect its “diverse” campus.

Student turnout for these elections has always been notoriously low. Last year, according to a Spectator report, an estimated 1,407 votes were cast. That’s a little less than 15 percent of the student body. And in that election, voter turnout was considered high. For everyone’s sake, there need to be more students participating in campus politics.

For the most part, I believe the Student Senate has students’ best interests in mind. Some might argue otherwise, and Senate has had its rough spots with the student body, but each party has come out better because of it.

The kind of honest, passionate dialogue that took place during the Blugold Commitment is exactly what the campus needs to evolve and grow as an institution. Social advancements, academic breakthroughs and more have long been a result of long, laborious debate between intellectual people. Students and leaders need to continually engage one another in order to best coexist.

So, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter who you cast your vote for next week. Even if there were hundreds of candidates on the ballot, I wouldn’t pretend to have the foresight to recommend an ideal representative body. But I urge you to research the candidates, find out how they will represent you, and then form a decision.

And, most importantly, don’t let the elections fade into the background after school lets out this spring. For those returning to school, come back in the fall with the same passion you felt on Election Day. Remember that you participated in democracy and remember why you chose the candidates you did. Hold them to high standards, engage them in meaningful discussion, and, in turn, make this university a place we can all feel good about attending and a place we can look back on with a sense of pride.

The Grind is a weekly column. Taintor, The Spectator’s editorial editor, can be reached at taintodw@uwec.edu. He blogs at davidtaintor.tumblr.com

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