On the importance of voting: AUB student elections

Hadi Afif

It is that time of year again, when tensions are high, student leadership is at stake, and campaigns are rushing to gain votes.

For some, the AUB student elections are the most anticipated event of the year. Campaigns release their platforms, promising the student body transparency and credibility in achieving student demands and bettering student life on campus.

Indeed, student elections are a great manifestation of democracy, highlighting the importance of individual choice and freedom in shaping the different aspects of student life on and off-campus.

By mere association, voting becomes more than a right, but rather, a duty for all students to both vocalize their demands and vote for candidates who are adamant on fulfilling them. This duty holds both students and their representatives accountable, as the University Student Faculty Committee (USFC) and Student Representative Committee (SRC) are endowed with a trust to direct their efforts towards student demands first and foremost.

The simple concept of student elections, therefore, is easily established: choosing a candidate that is representative of the student body, accountable to it, and works towards its benefit. Within this dynamic, the students’ duties become twofold. Voters present at the voting booths on elections day not only have the responsibility of voting, but also of being aware what their chosen candidates stand for, what their mission is, and whether their vote comes as manifestation of communal ideology, political awareness, or even both.

The university does not function nor exist in a vacuum, but rather as part of the general Lebanese context, both politically and socially. As such, the political discourse that exists outside university walls, sectarian or otherwise, often finds its way onto campus grounds.      

The identities and alliances we hold outside the university context do not disappear upon our entry through Main Gate, as AUB should and does function as a microcosm of the general Lebanese society. Therefore, it follows that the change that occurs on campus could act as a precursor for further change on a larger scale, beyond the walls of the university.   

The trajectory this rhetoric takes might insinuate a sense of predetermined fate for student elections, if AUB were to truly mimic the broader context within which it exists; however, student dynamics are continuously shifting.

One example of this shift is the gradually increasing voter turnout over the past years, with a 7 percent increase between 2015 and 2016. Whether this rise is due to increased awareness or general abstinence, the students’ duties towards each other and the university still stand.

This is not to say, however, that the USFC has not made considerable achievements over the past year, despite a rough start to its term, with its members meeting only four times in the first four months following their election. Since then, the committee reinstated the Fingerprints Project, a financial aid program which allows students to donate to other students upon graduation. Not to mention the USFC’s “Safer Campus Initiative” which promoted first aid training awareness.

Student elections are imperative both on a micro and macro scale. The question of merit should, first and foremost, be one that takes into account the different campaigns’ platforms and efforts to implement them. If freedom of choice is practiced blindly, it is safe to say that democratic expression is no longer for the benefit of the majority.

Before you cast your vote on October 13, remember the possible implications of your vote, and the privileges that come with being able to choose your leadership.

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