The case for the elections boycott

Azzam Tomeh & Zeinab Moukachar
Staff Writer & Videographer

With elections just around the corner, the debate on who to vote for and whether to vote at all becomes a topic of discussion for the majority of AUB students.

AUB is infamous for its diversity, and it makes sure its liberal reputation is reflected through the political freedom it allows its students. Yet, the politicization of the student body elections becomes inescapable.

The elections we witness annually are rarely ones in which the candidates compete to serve the students’ best interests. They are more concerned with which party can amalgamate students rather than with the students’ affairs and complaints on campus.

And so it becomes a question of where my representation, as a student who has no interest in casting a vote for any of the existing campaigns, lies. Where do I stand in my political opinion? And more importantly, why am I being cornered into having one at all? How does this, as an academic, concern me?

While there might exist candidates who hold a claim to political independence, certain inherited ideologies, which often transcend the boundaries of the university to include a worldview on how to deal with personal rights, religion, and the state, among others, are too present.

To a certain extent, not having political inclinations becomes a clear sign to a person’s actual political inclination. Opposing all parties and refusing their ideologies goes to become an ideology within itself, and it becomes a tool of mobilization all too known. Without a proper understanding of the politics of elections, choosing a candidate becomes an enigma.

As we saw during the “Stop the Tuition Fees Increase” protests, where the clubs, not the USFC, were the main element of mobilization, the student body holds the power to take action without needing to resort to a student government. Another incident is that of the Insight Club and the homosexuality lecture last year. Point being, if you want to do something effective in this university, sometimes you need to avoid the bureaucracy and take direct action yourself.

However, considering what was stated above, it can be said that this year, and probably not anytime soon, we will not vote. We will attempt to take action nonethelessneither resigning to ineffectiveness nor leaving the field empty so that anyone can do anything. We shall follow the famous motto: “Do not mourn, organize!”

One thought on “The case for the elections boycott

  1. Boycotting AUB elections is a healthy topic of discussion that springs up every few years. The angle that this piece took to discuss it provided for a worthwhile read.

    While reading, I found the use of the word “yet” in the second paragraph revealing. Do the fellow writers expect that the political freedom that AUB allows its students will result in an outcome which does not politicize the student body? I see politicization, instead, as a natural outcome of this freedom, especially in Lebanon today.

    “The elections we witness annually are rarely ones in which the candidates compete to serve the students’ best interests.” I don’t think this is unique to AUB. It’s part and parcel of democracy in general: A political group has an interest in maintaining itself and growing. The job of students is to be vigilant and make sure that the political group’s survival coincides with their needs (“affairs and complaints”). At AUB, I think you will find that speaking with student representatives (some more than others) is easier than doing so at other universities, easier than communicating with MPs, that’s for sure.

    Further ahead, the interpretation of the “Stop the Tuition Fees Increase” events is inaccurate. Yes, it’s true that one of the main elements of mobilization for STFI was student clubs, but they were also the main hinderance to the movement. Aside from the fact that the majority of the political groups had no real interest in the goals of the movement but “went through the motions” of demonstration, some political clubs attempted to cut (disastrous) deals, on their own, with the administration. Others withdrew participation after direct orders from political party chiefs. —Thus you can see where a monopoly on legitimate representation of the student body is necessary in these times. And again, whether we like it or not, the administration will look only to the USFC and SRCs for this legitimacy.

    Concerning your personal representation (as apolitical academics), I may understand where this genuine frustration is coming from, you don’t really have a choice but the one in front of you, unfortunately. The SRC/USFC system is decades old and administrations, come and go, seem to like it… The question of whether it is the best way to serve the student body is a different one, obviously. It is one that many generations tried to answer by proposing new ideas and drafting better systems. The vast majority failed, as you can imagine, for various reasons. (It is not until bylaws were consistently broken for several years and a bureaucratic crisis was created that the 2015 USFC produced the current proportional law, which is far from perfect.)

    This is not to discourage students from proposing solutions. There’s always a way to leave things a bit better than you found them if you put time and effort into it. If you do care, and I understand why some students don’t, the piece published should serve as a launching pad for more ideas, proposals, organization, and direct action (when the latter is actually an effective choice).

    One more important reality you have to face. Whether it pleases you or not, the six SRCs and the USFC do have some decision-making power that will be exercised in your name (and using your tuition), so the very least you may want is to have eyes and ears inside SRC and USFC meetings in order to get an idea about what’s going on inside. Centralized power, left unchecked, is a recipe for disaster. Perhaps that’s another way you can look at the vote you cast: who do I trust to tell me what’s actually going on in there?

Leave a Reply