Reported by Emelie Peacock
Student apathy is a concern at Langara College, a trend that experts say can lead to a lack of accountability in student politics.
Of 15,670 registered students, only 282 voted in the Langara Student’s Union by-election last month. This continues a trend of very low voter turnout during LSU elections, something which experts say can affect how student unions are run.
No time for student politics
Khaled Sukkarie, an organizer at The Hub who has previously helped to spread the word about students running for positions at the LSU, said students are too busy to participate in LSU politics.
“This semester was tough for everybody, everyone just wanted to move on, to graduate so they could get their diploma and degree. And so they don’t really involve themselves within the politics,” Sukkarie said.
Student apathy can make some voices unheard
Student apathy can result in some voices being heard over others, said Jude Crasta, former vice-president external affairs at UBC’s student union, the Alma Mater Society.
“Apathy during the time of voting for a candidate is definitely an issue. If it’s an extremely low voter turnout then you usually find one section of a population gets a say more than the silent majority,” Crasta said.
He said that student apathy can be more dangerous because some people win their positions through uncontested student union elections and unions get little student feedback on their decisions.
LSU board needs to own up to accountability
Crasta, not speaking specifically about the LSU, said this could result in a sense of entitlement and behaviour in unions that are not beneficial to students and can go as far as self-serving behaviour and corruption.
“Even though they don’t consciously realize it, it can be this inherent sense of entitlement and lack of accountability to get to the place where they are that leads to behaviours that the public or the student populace might not necessarily appreciate later on,” he said.
Stephen Phillips, political science instructor at Langara, said apathy towards politics by young people is an issue much bigger than student politics.
“We’re seeing low rates of participation at the polls at every level of government, from national, provincial, local and, yes, student union elections by younger voters. They have the lowest levels of participation and it’s a real challenge,” said Phillips.