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Vote or Die?

Mollie Weighs In On Student Apathy

We always want what we can’t have. It’s a basic human fact, and the subject of plenty of movies, music, magazine articles, and more. From the frosting currently calling my name -despite the fact that I know it’s reserved for cupcakes I’m making later – to the secret crush that I’m afraid to pursue because he’s off-limits for a wide variety of reasons, I am no stranger to this universal truth. Neither are most Isla Vistans. Sometimes the things that seem the most desirable are exactly those things that we know aren’t a good idea to desire at all – that tenth shot, the sexy booty call who will turn out to be just another coworker in the harsh light of morning, and the pizza that looks unnervingly tempting on television, but just ends up making you feel bad once you give in. In fact, sometimes knowing you can’t have something can give that off-limits item the most powerful pull of all; hence the appeal of the forbidden booty call, and the reason why so many otherwise-rational women are head over heels in love with the ambiguously straight thinking-girls’ sexpot, Anderson Cooper.

When things come too easily, it’s equally easy to resist them – a lesson every overly-eager freshman learns before the end of their first quarter. As the professor in my Alternative Dispute Resolution Class (code for learning how to legalese your opponent into submission before a conflict goes to court) says often, it’s all about leverage and how you use it. And nothing gives you more leverage like making someone work to win your trust, affection, respect, cooperation, etc. Like I said, when you can’t have something, it makes it that much more desirable. And, when you can have it too easily, it almost makes it not worth having at all.

As I was perusing my e-mail inbox yesterday, I came across an urgent message from UCSB Assistant Dean of Students, Britt Andreatta. The subject read “Urgent! Vote Today!” And, the body of the email simply stated, “The AS elections have a lower voter turnout than is needed for results to be valid. Please vote TODAY BEFORE 4PM on GOLD!!” So, apparently UCSB students are not just making their Associated Students’ candidates work for their votes, they’re making them work to get students to vote at all.

I actually doubt that’s the case at all. After my three years at UCSB, I think I can confidently say that not voting on GOLD isn’t so much an exercise of the collective leverage of UCSB students as it is an exercise of our collective apathy. Sure, plenty of people are involved in Campus Democrats, College Republicans, and Associated Students – not to mention the Environmental Affairs Board, the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District, the Isla Vista Tenants Union, the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative, and the Isla Vista Food Co-op, but the vast majority of UCSB students aren’t very involved in the day-to-day political maneuverings that go on in and around the I.V. and S.B. area

From deciding how to coordinate the annual Halloween celebration to deciding which student groups get to use the money we pay in fees every year, local government actually has a lot of power over our day-to-day goings-on – on-campus and off. Whether it’s complaints about skyrocketing book prices, the pain of having to pay to play sloshball in the local parks, or worrying about why the bathroom stall refuses to close just when you have to take care of some girl business, lots of things are impacted by the decisions A.S., the IVRPD, and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors make. They allocate funds, decide official agendas, and make decisions about how things are going to get done. Sure, they don’t always make decisions quickly or effectively – how long has the I.V. Master Plan been riding the bureaucratic merry-go-round? But, they do have a lot of power.

That’s why I think it’s such a shame that students don’t take advantage of our collective leverage. We complain, sure. Plenty of my very own column space has been devoted to discussions of sub par bathrooms and Supervisors’ silliness. But, as a collective unit, we never really make anyone work to change things. Our votes are either nonexistent, or up for grabs to whoever has the coolest sign on-campus and the best student outreach efforts during the few weeks before elections. How many students pay attention to the decisions local government makes, other than what gets printed in The Nexus? If we banded together, we could make the most of our collective leverage and make local government work harder than a horny freshman to win our votes – and not just during election time.

What if we stopped giving it up so easy? What if we made it clear that we do vote, and that our votes should count whenever local government is making a decision – not just when they’re trying to win our support on election day? What if we played political hard to get? Sure, most students are only here for four years, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a stake in how things are run in and around I.V. – if not for us, then for the next generation of Halloween-hosting, sloshball-playing, textbook-buying, bathroom-using students. And, although the AS elections are already over, that doesn’t mean we can’t come together and create some collective leverage the next time we’re being asked to pick one candidate over another. After all, we’re Isla Vistans, we know how to make someone work to woo us – at this point, we’ve all passed our first quarter of freshman year.

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