Liana Riley is a political science junior and Mustang News opinion editor. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Has Cal Poly become more active? Not physically. No, we seem to have that one in the bag; I mean are we more politically inclined than previous years? I would propose that we are, and not just politically, but active in the sense that we advocate for a wider range of issues.
This year, we now have the Students for Quality Education, SLO Solidarity, Queer Student Union and multiple opportunities for students to get involved in the voting process. Two notable ones were the University Union (UU) Referendum and the recent Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) election. As Mustang News reported, the voter turnout was higher this year, jumping from 22 percent to 26 percent. Compared to last year’s paltry 22 percent, this seems indicative of a much more invested campus.
When I say invested I mean students who are conscious of the decision-making processes at Cal Poly. Students who are judicious in their own decision making, in order to effect the best possible change on campus. So in this sense, I feel as if we have increased our efforts to be more invested in our campus throughout the year, and the voter turnout is just a reflection of that.
Why is this important? We’re only at school for four to five years, so why invest too much thinking about the long term? There is the surface level argument that we want our campus to have a positive reputation for years to come, so our degree is worth more. But more importantly, college is a microcosm of the real world, which we will soon enter. It is important to be civically engaged and ready to tackle these real world problems. Pretending like college isn’t a stepping stone to some serious considerations and issues we’ll have to make and deal with would be naive at best, and dangerous at worst.
No one is forcing you to vote for your college’s representative or for the UU to be rebuilt. Ultimately we each have to log onto our portals and make the conscious effort to do so. But in 10 years do you want to look back at your time here and think, did I have a voice or did I not even try?
Maybe in the state primaries and general election your vote is less impacting, but in a small college town, your voice is worth a lot more comparatively. It also helps when you are directly affected by the elections at hand. That’s probably why more people turned out to vote for the ASI election; they felt directly impacted by the outcome.
The stakes may have been higher this year with much of our campus in transition. What is greek life, one of our most prominent social groups, going to look like within the next few years? Will our campus continue to expand both in numbers and in infrastructure? Will the hellhole that is our parking system ever be remedied? All of these and more were questions on our minds throughout the campaigning process.
This year we wanted a voice more than ever. Even if ASI representatives can’t speak for the administration or the larger CSU system, they still help the students make the impact that we couldn’t without them. That should be reason enough to motivate us to vote, but if not, do we really want to give control to only 22 percent of the school? I’d hope we’d aim for at least 40 percent.