The importance of student knowledge and engagement
By Jamal Al-Bayaa, Staff Writer
In the aftermath of the Douglas Student Union (DSU) elections, Action was declared to have won a landslide victory against opposition party NexGen. The election broke the previous voter turnout record in the process, with 2,255 students (19.5 per cent of the entire student body) voting for one of the two parties.
Now, that may not be as high as the 65 per cent voter turnout that any federal election can expect, but to be fair, Douglas College spends considerably less on advertising. Action’s members attribute the record turnout to a combination of hard work on their part, and the interest and engagement of students, which they believe increased once students learned more about the DSU and the elections.
“Often,” Aran Armutlu, soon-to-be-treasurer, explained, “students would admit to not knowing what the DSU is. […] This is something we need to change.”
And for good reason! The DSU does a great deal for Douglas; it controls our funds, plans and goal sets for the college, and provides events and services,
This student awareness is mission critical. However, there is the question of will it last, or will it turn out to be just another acid rain?
If you’re not sure what I mean by “another acid rain,” well… that’s my point.
Acid rain was the harbinger of the environmental movement. It was a huge scare for the whole world, grabbing the attention of every household, government office, and academic who would listen. For a while, it was major news and major conversation, but after a while people simply lost interest. What’s worse, that loss of interest seemed to apply to all environmentalism, not making another powerful resurgence until studies on global warming (as it was called at the time) pointed to the fact that manmade interventions in society are having negative consequences on the planet on a drastic scale.
Similarly, Action worked diligently in their campaigning efforts, estimating that they spoke to “a few thousand students” in the two-week timeframe. They educated so many students on the five Ws of the DSU—and even went one step further in explaining the how. My hope for them is that they find a way to maintain that interest, turning themselves into more than just another acid rain.
In order to do that, they’ll need to make it as easy as possible for students to get engaged. Decisions should be made public and in an accessible form, not disguised under bulky minutes that are as thick as textbooks and as formal as funerals. Genuine transparency is key here if they want to win the engagement of students.
Further, students need to be asked questions about what they want to see happen at school. Better yet, engage them in the entire conversation: beginning, middle, and end. Engagement is a process of sometimes saying, “What would you like us to do, Douglas?” but always saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do,” and “Here’s what we just did.” When students see that their comments are heard, they will do exactly what they did during the elections: get involved and make a difference.