Put student apathy in perspective

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Apathy about student politics may be concerning, but it isn’t a good way to judge overall apathy.

The AMS elections didn’t attract as many readers as I expected. A piece on how “strong isn’t the new skinny” received almost 50 times as much readership as The Journal’s coverage of the AMS debate, and our AMS news coverage was on par with articles on the environmental benefits of eating less meat and poor workplaces in Kingston.

Of course, it’s our mandate to provide students with information about the elections, regardless of interest. And plenty of students were interested. However, it’s confirmed for me that student politics are generally of interest to only a core group of politically-minded students — and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Student apathy has been talked to death, almost to the point of a full-blown neurosis. Combatting apathy is a key part of most campaigns and it’s always a topic at AMS debates. Yet the central mission of the AMS is to advocate for students and provide good services, not to make students care about it.

Many student readers appear to care deeply about workplace standards, the environment and racism, but less so about the AMS. That’s OK. They’re allowed not to care and even not to vote, if it comes to that. I’d encourage them to vote — because there’s a lot the AMS can do for them — but a lack of interest in the student government doesn’t indicate an apathy epidemic.

It’s possible to be a highly-engaged student who doesn’t care a whole lot about student politics. I know because I’ve met them. They’re involved in engineering design teams, commerce conferences, social advocacy groups, campus publications — the list goes on — but not in the AMS. 

It’s also possible to like, and even work for, a service like Queen’s Pub but not particularly care who runs it. The AMS doesn’t pave our streets or change local laws. 

It’s an advocacy body that runs wonderful services and supports other campus organizations, but aspiring to high office in the AMS isn’t the pinnacle of the student experience. 

The AMS is well-suited to students with an interest in governance and public service. It’s a place for students with particular advocacy concerns and a resource for student clubs. But it’s not an organization that needs the full attention of all students all the time. 

Putting such immense pressure on the AMS to deal with apathy is unfair. The onus is on the AMS to make students aware of its services and the student elections, but there’s an equal responsibility on the shoulders of students to go to the AMS when they want something done.  

Students who want our student societies to take a particular stance can always get involved and vote for the teams they support. That’s a privilege we have. 

But if some students choose not to participate, that doesn’t mean we’re in a state of crisis. Let’s try to remember that — for the sake of everyone’s blood pressure.

Sebastian is one of The Journal’s Editors in Chief. He’s a fifth-year History major.

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