Campus Politics Need To Concern Students
Strike! Unions! Budgets! Hiring freezes!
These topics aren’t exactly sexy, unless you’re a news junkie or a student of labor unions or accounting. For some, it’s likely these words in a headline will send them running for our most recent list article or piece about quirky students. Those pieces are great, fun to write, fun to read and are meant to entertain while educating.
Be that as it may, students need to pay attention to the ugly headlines too. They’ve got great personalities.
For some students, hopefully the majority, this isn’t an issue. There are some who remain oblivious to the workings beyond daily class to class life that keep Youngstown State University running, and this editorial is a plea to them.
Please, pay attention.
It’s easy to disregard what’s happening on campus behind the scenes. Obviously, access is tough. Average students don’t have the chance to sit with President Tressel or the Board of Trustees or the top faculty union members and get unfettered access to what’s happening, and if they do, they then have to navigate a sea of spin to figure out which assemblage of facts are closest to the truth.
Even with proper access to information, there is still the question: “Why should I care?” Most college students spend between four to six years at an institution, and with YSU being an overwhelmingly commuter school, the issue of transience of the central community plays an enormous part in why individuals don’t involve themselves more.
Often time, the “shadow campus” — the areas immediately surrounding a campus where students live in off-campus housing — are run down, primarily because no one is investing in the area. Students move in, bear the conditions for a few years, even embracing them as part of the college experience, and move out, leaving landlords little incentive to really upgrade the units.
It is the opinion of this editorial that this issue of transience is afflicting our institution as well.
College is tough for many. Even the academically gifted still have to bear the costs of living on their own, keeping a social life, balancing school, work, hobbies, organizations, internships and myriad other responsibilities. It’s natural to want to duck in and attempt to plow through the college experience as quickly and painlessly as possible.
The problem with this strategy is that students, who have the power to affect enormous change due to the fact that the majority of a college’s funding is directly correlative to the students attending, often times never organize to utilize this power.
The abysmal voter turnout for the Student Government Association, the body which is meant to represent student interests to the faculty and administration, is evidence enough of this disengagement in the body. In some elections, less than 1 percent of the student body turned out to vote.
When students don’t get mad about how budget money is used, unnecessary positions are created, academic courses and programs — like the JSTOR database at Maag Library — are defunded and hiring freezes occur.
When students don’t get mad about hiring freezes, necessary services like the Center for Student Progress become understaffed, putting the burden of helping students navigate life at college on the shoulders of already over-stretched grad students.
When students don’t get mad, situations like faculty strikes become nearly inevitable, and despite what some may think about an extended break, a strike is bad for everyone on campus, from the president on down. How many students truly want to spend an extra semester on campus, putting off starting their adult lives for another year or half year? How many students truly want to lose their student loan allocations for a semester? How many students can afford a few thousand dollar hit to their budgets?
These are not hypotheticals. These situations currently exist on campus, and the group with potentially the loudest voice and strongest arm oftentimes seems to have their heads in the sand.
Every student, from those of us tasked with reporting the news to the first semester freshman, need to be aware of what’s going on and be willing to organize to ensure that the education many students are going into deep debt to afford is one that is worth the cost. Read The Jambar, The Vindicator, The News Outlet and YSU News. Keep up with reports from the local stations. Follow key YSU Twitter accounts. Talk to your professors and ask them what students can be doing to help make things better on campus. Engage the SGA, who are taking steps to make receiving student feedback even easier than it already is. Get to know who represents students on campus. Know who Michael Slavens is. Know who Eric Shehadi is. Submit letters to the editor to The Jambar. Make your voice known.
Everyone is busy. Everyone has his or her own life outside of YSU campus. But everyone can spend a little time engaging one facet of campus workings. If students can organize those efforts, a united group of concerned students can change more than any editorial or SGA election ever could.