Dan Grover: If you don’t vote on University issues, don’t complain

Outrage erupted across campus last week about the University’s new smoking ban, which will prevent smoking within 25 feet of all University buildings and common spaces starting next fall.

Some students are understandably upset: They feel that the University is encroaching on their right to smoke wherever they please, and claim that the ban will marginalize a large portion of the student body.

But students had the chance to express their opinions on the smoking ban last winter, and most failed to do so. It’s not fair to accuse the University of being unreasonable when most students didn’t even vote in the first place.

This is an issue of student engagement. If students want to be treated like adults on campus, then they need to act like them.

The smoking ban was a part of a Student Association referendum in February that asked students whether or not they thought smoking within 25 feet of all campus buildings should be banned. And while 66 percent of voters approved the ban, only 20 percent of the student body voted at all.

That is a dismal turnout, and it isn’t representative of the student body as a whole. But despite the low voter turnout, it is what the University had to treat as indicative of students’ wishes.

The new rule wouldn’t be going into effect if students hadn’t waited until it was already approved by the Board of Trustees to express their dissatisfaction.

But we have a chance to redeem ourselves. This Thursday, there will be another Student Association referendum – this time about raising student fees to accommodate the growing number of clubs and organizations on campus. It’s important that we make our voices heard.

Here’s some background on what’s on the ballot. Each semester, every student pays an extra $1.50 per credit hour on their tuition bill, which then goes into the SA’s funding pool. The SA allocates the funds to student organizations.

But the number of student organizations has risen over the last few years. As a result, the amount of money the SA is able to distribute to each individual group has begun to decline.

To rectify this, the SA is proposing an increase from $1.50 to $3, which would be introduced slowly over the course of six years so current students wouldn’t have to pay more than they already do.

I’m not here to persuade you to vote for or against that measure – just to encourage you to actually vote. But I will say this: Thursday will give students a chance to impact how well clubs and organizations are funded in the future. Just like we did last February, we have an opportunity to vote on an issue that will have repercussions for all students going forward.

This time, let’s not drop the ball.

Dan Grover is a freshman in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

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