[Campus commentary]The right and duty to voteIt’s election season again ― even in the schools. Student governments’ terms expired last month and elections for the next student governments were scheduled in most universities. My school, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, prepared for the election by organizing an election commission to supervise the election campaigns. The candidates gave speeches at the school’s main gate and in classrooms to attract students’ interest and votes. However, it seems to me that the students were lukewarm about the election. Some even regarded the candidates’ speeches as annoying noise.
At Hankuk, some of the colleges held their own elections before the general student government election, with disappointing results.
For example, 545 students out of 1,628 students at the College of Oriental Languages voted in the college’s student council election, and the election at the College of Social Sciences had only 188 students voting out of 415 students. The voting rate in each college was 33.47 percent and 45.41 percent, respectively. Considering that those elections took place over two days, the turnout did not live up to my expectations.
Each college’s election commission sent text messages to student voters urging them to come out and vote three or four days before election day. Even though students knew the election would occur soon, many did not bother to pay attention or take part.
Every year, the central election commission hosts an election panel discussion. This forum is designed to provide not only general information about each candidate but also their platforms. Students can listen to their views and have a good chance to decide which candidates measure up to expectations. In spite of that, I think about 99.9 percent of Hankuk’s students are not interested in this forum. When I participated in it as a discussant, about 50 people came. But unfortunately, most of them were insiders from the election campaigns of each candidate or school reporters.
Only a few unconnected students came and showed interest in following the discussion.
It is certain that university students’ political indifference is becoming a social problem. That’s because they have to concentrate on employment and feel skeptical about politics.
For similar reasons, students’ regard for student government elections is declining rapidly. They think it does not matter which candidate wins and becomes their representative.
Elections need people’s participation. The reason elections are commonly called the “flower of democracy” is that everybody can advocate their political perspective and the results of elections reflect how people value their opinions. This is also true of student council elections. Representatives require legitimacy, which stems from students’ participation in the process. Unless students vote in the elections, representatives may lead students without legitimacy and students lose the right to keep their representatives in check. Exercising the right to vote, or not doing so, are responsibilities that students must take seriously.
If students are apolitical in the election, they are abdicating their role as the true constituency in their schools.
*The writer is a reporter for The Argus newspaper at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
by Yun Ji-hun