On Nov. 7, Ohioans will go to the polls and elect a new governor, a new legislature and other state and county leaders. I understand, by the low voter turnout apparent in elections ranging from the U.S. presidency to the Undergraduate Student Government presidency, people our age are not inclined to engage themselves in the political process.
Most of us think that it’s at best worthless and at worst corrupt. And while I understand that view and share your frustrations, we all need to come together and make an impact in the upcoming elections.
As you all know, our tuition has risen uncontrollably over the past several years. Current upperclassmen are paying a 9.3 percent increase per year on their tuition and freshmen are being charged an astounding 18 percent more than other students. Why is this happening? What has caused our fees to spiral out of control?
The answer, in simple terms, is our state’s lack of priority on funding higher education. Our legislators would rather worry about short-sighted problems in their own districts and blame the lack of funding on the large number of foreign students at Ohio State than do anything proactive to combat the problem.
For the past year, I have met with and listened to various political insiders about our situation, but the severity of our problem did not fully materialize for me until I testified in front of the State Subcommittee on Higher Education.
I can tell you all that if you had been at that meeting, you would have been appalled and motivated to change our leadership. These people do not understand the value of higher education, nor are they willing to make the necessary investments in our future.
They are more worried about our stance on domestic partner benefits than about ensuring affordable education for us all. The people who comprise our legislature are, with some notable exceptions, not the ones who we can entrust to support our cause and prioritize higher education in the future.
And if we think about it from an exceptionally crass point of view, why should they? The fundamental truth in politics – although it’s totally wrong – is that politicians answer only to the people who elect them; and OSU students, and people our age in general, have no hand in electing or removing them from office.
The only way to ever change that and to make our representatives responsible to us is to mobilize, register and vote. Voting is the single most important civic responsibility we have, and it should be our minimum contribution to society.
In USG, we are attempting and will continue our attempts to make registering to vote as easy and as convenient as possible. We have been out on The Oval and at various places around campus with voter registration tables. We will continue to have them set up next week. We would also invite anyone interested in picking up a form to stop by our offices in room 201 of the Ohio Union or to e-mail me at email@example.com, and I’ll see that you get one. The last day to register to vote is today.
I certainly don’t want to sound preachy or self-righteous in my plea to get you all to register to vote; rather, I just want to impress upon you the extraordinary amount of change we would see if we were a larger part of the political process.
If our advocacy and lobbying efforts in student government were backed up by a significant increase in voter registration and voter turnout by college students. If we united together and influenced just a single race this November, we would see our influence among politicians skyrocket like never before.
We have all felt the brunt of tuition increases, and we are the ones who can do something to change it. Together, we can exert a tremendous amount of influence over what happens to higher education and the future of our state.
Eddie Pauline senior in political science and geology and USG president
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