The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Judiciary temporarily suspended the TCU Senate Executive Board and Elections Commission (ECOM) on the night of Nov. 11, after believing that members of the Senate Executive Board were attempting to bypass an election and appoint students to fill vacant Senate seats. Ultimately, the Judiciary rescinded its suspension against the Senate Executive Board, clarifying that this incident was a result of a misunderstanding concerning the meaning of “appointment.”
Although this was a misunderstanding, recent contestation over how to fill vacant government seats illustrates a larger issue of a lack of student interest in running for elected student offices. At its core, the confusion would not have occurred had the vacant government seats been filled in the fall.
Involvement in student government is critical not only to ensuring the long-term health of student democracy, but also to building the foundation of local government and civic engagement beyond Tufts’ campus. Moving forward, it is essential that Tufts students run for TCU offices and get involved in other forms of student government in order to effectively represent student voices on campus and enact real change.
In a time like this, a lack of student interest in running for elected office is not surprising. Due to restrictions presented by the pandemic, many students are struggling to keep up with school work and lack the time or capacity to stay involved with extracurricular activities. In addition, some may have been discouraged to run due to the difficulties of campaigning virtually or staying involved while remote. Nevertheless, our community currently faces considerable challenges, many of which demand student response and input. It is important that students are represented in campus government in order to properly respond to these challenges and improve campus life.
It is clear that Tufts students harbor the capacity to get involved in student government, even in testing times; their participation in and organizing for the 2020 presidential election was a true indicator of students’ commitment to the democratic process and civic engagement. Tufts students must translate this civic potential to on-campus affairs by running for student government.
Even in normal times, civic engagement in student government elections is essential to enacting real change on campus. Student representatives act as the rapport between the Tufts community and administrators; they voice the change that the student body wants. In addition to its influence on campus, student government also has the potential to influence changes in the surrounding Medford and Somerville communities. As a locus of civic engagement, student government establishes the foundation of local democracy.
Competitive elections are the cornerstone of any democracy, as they ensure that the needs and interests of the students are entirely represented. This follows the very purpose of student government. In order to make sustainable change on campus, students must run for positions in the TCU Senate, the TCU Judiciary and the Committee on Student Life. In addition to running for government, students can become more involved in student government by voting in TCU elections, proposing a referendum or campaigning for student candidates.
In order to increase public knowledge and interest in student government, the TCU Student Government should consider ramping up outreach operations by enacting initiatives that educate students about the responsibilities and functions of student government. Understanding the diverse array of actions that this governing body takes is the first step to increasing student involvement.
Running for student government is an impetus for change on campus; it provides a central line of communication between student demands and administrative action. As the first to be affected by university changes, students must also be the first to advocate for their needs and invest in the betterment of the Tufts community.