The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate elections for the 2017-2018 school year took place on April 12. Dozens of students were selected to serve the student body, including seven senators from each class year, five committee on student life representatives, six community representatives and seven judiciary members.
Although these individuals will spend the next academic year working on policies and taking actions that affect the entire student body, only 28.73 percent of the Tufts undergraduate population voted in the election. This is an improvement from last year’s 24.31 percent. However, the idea that under a third of students exercised their right to choose their own representatives is troubling.
While political apathy on the national and state levels is widely dissected in the media, recognizing and criticizing the lack of participation in on-campus elections like the TCU Senate races is also important. TCU Senate decisions, such as the recent successful resolution in support of divestment from four companies involved in occupied Palestinian territories, address issues that are personal and important to many students. Electing candidates who represent students is an important way for students to have their voices heard by administration.
In addition to passing resolutions, the Senate undertakes other important tasks such as allocating funds to clubs and piloting new initiatives like Swipe it Forward. Senators and other representatives are responsible for many of the on-campus changes that impact students’ day-to-day lives.
There are a variety of measures that can be taken to address this low rate of voter participation. While the Tufts Elections Commission (ECOM) emails all students explaining the voting procedure every spring, additional publicity and information explaining when and how to vote — including social media posts, supplemental emails and posters around campus — could be helpful in expanding turnout.
Perhaps even more crucially, ECOM and TCU Senate should endeavor to clarify what the representatives are actually able to accomplish, so students are better informed about why they should care about who takes on these roles.
Furthermore, ECOM members and TCU Senators could set up voting stations around campus, where students would be encouraged to vote through SIS. Incentivizing voting through exciting, informative events may also increase turnout. New York University’s Student Senators Council hosts an All University Election Party to encourage students to vote for their representatives. A similar event at Tufts could help raise awareness about voting.
No matter which methods Tufts chooses to implement, it is important that more of the student body participates in the students elections, as they can have such significant effects on their lives.