In the recent campaigns for Student Government positions, many students have voiced that interest is low. Student constituents claim they do not know what SG does and its members are wishing for more participation in their affairs. But it is not the job of either of these groups to raise interest — it’s the job of political activists.
Generally, if it is not hurting them, people are happy to let the government go about its business until election day. We may see something in the news and think “oh, well that’s a thing,” but if it doesn’t resonate with us on a deeper level, we are likely to file it away next to “do the assigned readings for class.” The only reason we may revisit the issue would be if someone repeatedly brought it to our attention.
A man, for example, is not likely to think about abortion laws on even a semi-regular basis. Likewise, someone who does not routinely experience prejudice will not be active in civil rights legislation. It’s organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and Black Lives Matter that drive engagement in political issues.
For issues on campus that need SG action, it falls to those that are passionate about change to raise awareness and support. In order to gain that support, a political activist may want to become a public figure in the group they are passionate about. This not only affects change, but drives interest as well. Otherwise, SG falls to the back of everyone's minds, where all they seem to do is tinker with the budget.
This is not to say that SG members can not promote interest. Donald Trump, for example, promotes interest in government almost daily, particularly surrounding the issues of budgets and border walls. SG members should routinely reach out to their constituents to make sure needs are being met on both sides.
Additionally, SG hopefuls should be voicing their opinions long before announcing their candidacy. How much they can do outside of soft campaigning is a little fuzzy; the Student Government codes classify holding special events as being part of a soft campaign but do not elaborate on what a special event is. Regardless, future candidates should aim to become a public figure before official campaigning begins. The few weeks that the school allows for soft and hard campaigns is simply not enough time for students to get to know a candidate.
Raising awareness for anything can be a difficult task. Presence online, on Greene Street and at events are important parts of public image for those that want to increase awareness. While those in SG may desire increased participation from students, mobilizing the masses is best left to those with the passion.