By Jocille Morito
The Silliman University Student Government (SUSG) student election had come about, but it turned out that majority of the students strayed from this year’s polls. Based on the electoral vote counts the Comelec had gathered, roughly 2, 965 students went to their designated precincts and exercised their right to suffrage. However, the number of voters is a disquieting figure against the bigger number of student population, which is about 9,000.
The low number of voters against the total student population during the recent election poses an alarming scenario of a perpetual issue that needs to be addressed, lest our student democracy of “by the students, of the students, and for the students” be imperiled. With this phenomenon of voter apathy hovering among the students, it leaves the writer this question of how much democracy Sillimanians are really practicing. Do the indifference and lack of interest among the student body, by and large, prove to be a manifestation of a new apathetic spirit in the campus?
One of the reasons of this low percentage of voter participation is student ignorance.
According to some students, they were not aware of the ongoing elections or even who the candidates running for office were.
This lack of information and awareness are precursors of voter apathy. An evidence of this ignorance is the low number of student participation during this school year’s miting de avance last February 24 at the Amphitheater. If anything, the miting de avance was just a political face off of both parties attended only by their supporters.
Comelec Chair Jethro Cadiz explained that the ungodly schedule of such important event was due to the EDSA holiday. They couldn’t schedule the miting de avance during the campaign. This made them resort to a Monday when majority of the students were both available and non-palpable in the school premises.
Though the low student participation was already expected, SUSG President Rona Namocatcat said they did their best to reach out to students and inform the student body through social media sites, the school paper, and bulletin boards, adding, “we encouraged students to comment and post their concerns on the STRAW page, making the SG more accessible to them, giving them the feeling that their SG is just a post away and that results can be achieved right away.”
Through these social media sites, students had the chance to throw questions to the candidates which were asked by representatives from the student government during the miting de avance.
Another reason for this student apathy is the lack of students’ availability. With the finals week on the way, not to mention the piles of assignments and requirements that need to be completed before an impossible deadline, some students (especially graduating seniors) had just lost contact with the current happenings in the University.
One senior commented that the number of things she needed to complete before the finals week has caused her to be apathetic to student activities. She has been swimming in a guacamole of stressful requirements that she had no more time to care about anything that wouldn’t help her graduate this March.
One noticeable reason for this voter apathy is also the young generation’s lack of interest in public discourse and politics. In Ryan Gosling’s documentary “Regeneration,” one cause why most of the youths are apolitical is due to the emergence of technology.
The young people’s consummation of too much technology had caused them to be too detached from nature and lose their
sense of history, making the culture of the Gen X apathetic to political and national issues. Or if they do show concern towards social events, they talk more about the Vhong Navarrovs-Deniece Cornejo-vs-Cedric Lee case (among other showbiz issues) than the pork barrel scam and other political concerns.
Aside from this technological hype, political news as shown in media had disillusioned the youth towards politics. The never-ending cycle of political scandals, corruption, and bad governance has caused the young people to be dissuaded from participating in any political discourse. One student said that the media’s negative publicity of the Philippine government had caused her to lose faith in political candidates, be it national, local, or scholastic.
Lastly, one reason for this student apathy during the election is due to the non-palpable existence of the Student Government to some of the students. According to Comelec Chair Jethro Cadiz, “The apathy of the students in the election is derivative of the student’s apathy towards the activities by the Student Government in the entire year.” SUSG President admits the presence of student apathy.
Despite this, Rona Namocatcat stays positive about the progress of her administration in reaching out to the students. According to her, “The fact that we now have better voter turnout and of course, we have more students actually participating not just in activities but more importantly in discussing issues and concerns in the university, is something worth noting… Moreover, I a very positive about how students now are more reactive towards issues in the university that affect them in that they become more vocal about their opinions and actually support the SG in its negotiations and inquiries to the administration. Thus, we can say that apathy may not be as terrible as it was years ago.”
The school is supposed to be a training ground for the students who will later be the very citizens who will decide the destiny of this nation. With this apathy hovering among the youth, the never ending cycle of poverty and corruption in this country might never come to a halt.
The lack of interest among the students in school events and issues (and not just with Showbiz issues) will soon be translated into society if not properly addressed. Indeed, it will take another People Power (not the violent one which aims to topple down the government) to awaken people to the urgency of the times.
Rather than just complain against the problems of the society, the people must first try to do something against it by taking part in social discourse, etc. Before going to the streets and ranting against the government, they must first fight against the apathy which caused such problems to persist.