Apathy or irrelevancy?
Despite two elections and ambitious candidates covering the campus in an avalanche of campaign fliers, only slightly more than one tenth of Portland State students voted in this year’s student elections, causing many people to speculate about what causes such a low turnout.
Of the 19,771 students enrolled at PSU (enrollment as of fourth week of winter term, according to the PSU Office of Research and Planning), only a fraction -1,999 – took part in electing their representatives to student government.
“Maybe they (students) voted like before and it made no difference …there are no changes,” Natasha, a human resources major said.
Annie Stewart, the campus organizer for the New Voters Project observed, “Ten percent youth voter turnout is very usual for local elections.”
Defending students who did not vote, third place ASPSU presidential candidate Justin Myers stated that “most students aren’t involved … because a student isn’t involved in student government, people think they’re apathetic, but they have families and jobs.”
Adas Lis, the new recreation cluster senator, echoed Myers, describing what he called a general feeling throughout the campus that students have families and jobs and they “don’t realize what’s going on and don’t care.”
The new vice president of ASPSU, Ryan Klute pointed out a “lack of communication and a feeling of irrelevancy between ASPSU and students … people don’t see the relevancy of ASPSU in their lives as students on their campus.” Klute appeared hopeful that the newly elected ASPSU will bridge the communication gap with students.
“The lack of outreach from this office that will change this year under Harper and Klute,” he said.
Increased student involvement in campus politics may be a hope of student politicians, yet Stewart pointed out that “PSU students are heavily involved in their communities …incoming college freshman; eighty percent are already involved civically.” Stewart went on to say “apathy is not keeping students from voting, they just don’t feel it is an effective way to deal with issues in the community.”
Sitting on the steps of the Ondine smoking with his friends, Roji Mathews scolded student government, saying “I don’t think that it’s that popular, they say they will do something, but they don’t do it …they make all these promises, but don’t do anything, it’s just for their resume.”
Mathews, an undergraduate business major, is involved with the International Cultural Service Program (ICSP) and the Indian Student Association (ISA). “They (ICSP, ISA) promote international students getting involved in the American community, it’s better for us, rather than arguing about politics,” Mathews said. The availability of scholarships through those groups was another reason Mathews stated for his involvement.
Pointing to anger in young voters at “dirty, lying, politicians,” Stewart said “There is no trust of politicians; a generation of young people are taking matters into their own hands.”