Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Student Activism and Participation

Last week UNH held the annual student body president and representative elections. I was pretty sad to see that there were only three different pairs of president and vice president candidates on the ballot when it came time to vote.

During my time in Durham, I have noticed that UNH seems to be a very inactive campus. As a history major I often read about the student rallies and strikes that took place in the 1960s and 70s over Vietnam, Civil Rights and other issues.

Nowadays it seems as though the old fashioned student protest is completely absent from college campuses, particularly UNH. Even back when college protests were common, UNH only had one major strike. It was in 1970 following the Kent State shooting and the Chicago Three's rally at Lundholm Gymnasium. Despite the last two weeks of classes being turned into voluntary workshops and finals being cancelled, UNH still denies that there was ever a strike.

Even with many student organizations that deal with common strike-able issues, most of those topics slip between the cracks of daily conversations. Outside of those organizations it seems as though nobody truly cares what is going on in the news nationally, worldwide, and even right here on campus.

In those student elections I mentioned earlier, the one with only three presidential candidates and a representative running unopposed, only 2,098 students voted. That is roughly 16 percent of the undergraduate population.

Those numbers tell me a few things.

The first is that the vast majority of students did not vote. But let's look at that a little bit further. Why wouldn't students vote in their own election? The simplest and probably the lamest excuse is that they did not know about it. We all got emails, we had two days to vote and there was a voting reminder and link displayed right on the blackboard homepage.

The second reason might be that students do not care about who our president and student representatives are. This makes a little more sense, but much like I tell people who do not vote in the state and national elections, if you don't vote, I don't want to hear you complain about anything. You had an opportunity to make your voice heard and you blew it out of pure laziness and carelessness. While it might seem like a lack of voting is due to a poor choice of candidates, maybe it actually shows how students view our administration.

I have been here for three years, and between writing this column and my blog I have been a pretty active student when it comes to keeping up on UNH news and events. I'm probably up there with the editors of this paper for students who follow and read about all of UNH's activities.

Over those three years I can't name a single thing the student senate has done apart from medical amnesty, which is still in its test phase and it was only allowed by the administration after it was stripped down so close to nothing that it is practically worthless. I do not mean that against any of the students who worked tirelessly on that project: I tip my hat to them and I thank them. I mean that against the administration.

Our administration has such a tight and firm grip over the student body and senate and they have such a determined agenda that there is no way the student senate and president could actually get anything passed that would actually benefit the student body in ways that the majority of modern college students would actually care about. When I enter most of my classes, I don't hear students talking about what the student senate is working on or the three wars that we're in or human rights violations. I hear them talking about the awesome party they went to or how drunk they got at Libby's on Thursday night.

If our student electives really had any power, UNH probably would not have a zero tolerance policy, which of all the policies at UNH right now, might be the most ludicrous. This also reflects New Hampshire's internal possession law. Following the concert two weekends ago there were 48 arrests on campus. The same concert tour was at Rhode Island the night before and there were only two arrests.

I don't think that the voting turnout was low because of bad candidates or that students don't care. It was low because it doesn't matter who is running since, deep down, we all know that student senate is run by the UNH administration.

Stay classy, not UMassy.


  1. Ab-so-f'n-lutely.

  2. always enjoyed most of your stuff... but i really liked this one. keep at it.

  3. "deep down, we all know that student senate is run by the UNH administration"


  4. if you want to know why UNH doesn't have protest and strikes, just ask those students who were wrongfully told they would be arrested for giving out flyers about obama while biden was here

  5. So when you say; "I hear them talking about the awesome party they went to or how drunk they got at Libby's on Thursday night," you're including yourself right?

  6. Honestly, I usually keep that stuff to myself in class. That's what the blog is for.

  7. I never voted in any student elections while I was in college--but I did vote in congressional and presidential elections. I never really knew what the student politicians did really, not that I spent any time trying to figure that out though. If the student elections had clearly defined parties I might have voted though. (how bad is that!)