Staff Editorial: A rally is one small step to student space

When Student Association President Ashwin Narla spoke with The Hatchet’s editorial board at his endorsement hearing last spring, he said he would not only represent students if elected, but also give them an integral role in the advocacy process.

He pledged to be the voice of the student body – not an arm of the administration.

Narla is fulfilling that promise. The SA will hold a rally in Kogan Plaza Thursday, through which the group hopes to marshal student support for construction on the third-floor terrace in the Marvin Center – the next phase of the ongoing student space initiative. They plan to collect student signatures for a petition that they can then present to the Board of Trustees.

Bringing more students into the fold just might be the key to success on this issue. And it is a stark contrast from past SA administrations, which did not seek student support with a rally.

But admittedly, getting students to participate in the rally will be a challenge. And it is unknown whether it will have any meaningful impact. There is a perennial problem of student engagement with campus issues, and the SA has its work cut out for itself.

What we do know is that when student-related initiatives have been put up for a vote in the past, apathy was high and voter turnout was low.

During the smoking ban referendum last spring, less than 20 percent of students cast a ballot. And when the SA proposed another referendum on the student fee increase in November, only 16 percent of the student body took the time to express their opinion. Both referenda passed, but the majority of students simply weren’t involved.

This rally is an admirable attempt to encourage student engagement on campus, but it can’t be the only effort. Students must recognize that a long-term battle is necessary if any real progress is to be made.

And while focusing on long-term objectives, Narla’s administration has also successfully tackled quality-of-life issues this year.

So far, he has delivered free HIV/AIDS testing clinics at the Student Health Service, convinced the administration to open Duques and Funger halls later for students to study and passed a student fee increase to enable the SA to offer more funding to smaller student organizations.

It’s unlikely that any building projects for the third floor terrace will take off this semester. But it is possible to build real momentum.

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