Throughout the month of October, eager students across campus will attend meetings for political organizations to learn how to make a difference in November’s elections.
After hearing how to retake our country or state, depending if it’s a College Republicans or a University Democrats meeting, our young activists will probably also hear a warning about youth voter apathy. Politicos across campus will have to put up with hearing how young people are continuously unsatisfied about politics in America but then don’t show up to the polls.
We know the feeling.
Last summer, the UT administration and Student Government held two open forums about the renaming of Simkins Hall dormitory. At the forums, there were more Austin residents than UT students. Where were the University Democrats on this major campus civil rights issue?
Last month, Student Government hosted a “town hall” meeting in Parlin Hall about an insufferable plan by the University Area Partners to increase parking meters in West Campus, but only about 15 students attended. Why didn’t College Republicans come out against what is essentially a tax on West Campus residents?
Last week, President William Powers Jr. delivered the State of the University address to an auditorium largely void of students altogether.
For all their efforts in local and state campaigns, campus political organizations’ absence on University issues is disappointing. If these groups used their tremendous resources and memberships — which will be especially large given the upcoming election — to address campus issues, then UT students would have much better representation in the Tower.
To be sure, political organizations’ goals are political; their job is to advance and advocate for a partisan agenda, and we have no doubt they will do so. However, they also have a responsibility as campus leaders.
Few groups have the organizational resources, energetic memberships and political savvy that UT political organizations and their members do, and directing them toward campus issues, even marginally, could have a tremendous impact on issues that are specific to UT and directly affect the lives of students.
Thousands of political organizations around the state are working to elect Texas Democrats and Republicans, but the number working to ensure their principles ultimately become manifested in UT policy is much lower. In other words, we need you more than they do.
College Republicans could offer ideas about cutting the UT budget, given their concern about the amount of spending by the federal government, and University Democrats could work with administrators to ensure any scholarship cuts do not disproportionately impact low-income students.
Additionally, student political groups have significantly more influence with campus administrations than they do with statewide public servants. Legislators in the Capitol have mixed constituencies, but administrators in the Tower only have one: UT students.
Last week the Senate of College Councils established CTBAC, a program designed to enhance student input into the budgeting process. Hopefully this school’s political organizations will have a strong presence in these new programs. We urge political organizations and their members to take a break from the state-elections horse race and help improve the University. As Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.”