Photo via the United Nations
If one examined the current condition of the United States government from a foreign perspective, they would be worried (or excited, depending on their allyship), and rightfully so. Recently, a House Speaker was ousted mid-term, Senators in the 80-plus club are meeting their end, a ‘geriatric’ incumbent is unable to form full thoughts, and his aggressively outspoken main competitor is facing four criminal trials as a potential federal offender—I’m quite worried, too.
Is America a case study in representative democracy any longer? As Peter Barker of the New York Times stated, “It has become an example of disarray and discord, one that rewards extremism, challenges norms and threatens to divide a polarized country even further.” For many Fordham students, the 2024 election is the first presidential election they will be able to partake in—a civil liberty that most take for granted. As next November approaches and the excitement bubbles up, I ask one question: What about our campus government?
In an e-mail on the official Fordham letterhead, the Elections Committee of the United Student Government at Lincoln Center (USGLC) informed students of twelve vacant positions, including Vice President, Secretary, and Chair of Student Affairs, amongst many lower-level representative spots. How such positions could be vacant in any other political climate is beyond me; however, considering the overall state of the union, it does make sense.
In an exclusive interview with The Observer, former USGLC Vice President-elect Kennedi Hutchins revealed her motivation to step down as “being dissatisfied with the club’s future trajectory” as well as an increasing amount of “disagreements arising amongst the executive board over USGLC’s prospects.” Hutchins’ sentiments seem to ring true for many members of Generation Z (“Gen Z”), who express feelings of discontentment and doubt. Though many call Gen Z an inspired generation, one to change the face of politics and activism, if we cannot get involved on our campuses, how can we change the nation’s government?
One of the biggest issues the U.S. government faces is transitioning to younger representatives, an evolution desperately needed to prevent a modern gerontocracy. In the meantime, Gen Z needs to be involved—and that starts on campus.
While speaking with Melissa Gazal, Associate Director of Student Involvement at Fordham LC, she suggested a form of COVID residuals as a reason why students may be less involved. A study by BMC Public Health claimed, “90% of the respondents have been affected by the shutdown and unable to perform normal work or studies at their institution for between 1 week to 2 months.” This observation can explain the lack of engagement in institutional societies, as the Class of 2024 is the last graduating class to have attended during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, COVID isolation can only be an excuse for so long—the fate of a nation waits for no one. Those students who participate in USGLC are the future political leaders of our country, making this lack of involvement a serious issue.
The student government representatives are integral to the success of a university. It allows for students to feel represented, heard, and established as meaningful members of the community, just as the cooperation of members the three branches of U.S. government are integral to the success of our nation. Without them, citizens aren’t represented, the government cannot operate properly, and the faith in our political systems is lost. The lack of political engagement on campus is making it clear that Fordham is not a bubble of democratic nirvana, but a microcosm of larger issues we face as a nation.
This article was edited by Katherine Brennan.