Apathy: UMB’s Bubonic Plague

Michael Hogan

Let’s talk about apathy. It is a disease, a gnawing parasite within our community. Apathy, if not dealt with, is the death of democracy.

It is not just in the American political landscape. It is not only about American voters not making it into the polls on Election Day. It is here with us at UMB, it is within us.

Apathy seeps through the whole world around us here on campus. Apathy floods the catwalk, it sprouts from the ground on which our Beacons play their sports, the alligators of “Lagatros” rise up out of it. Apathy is everywhere.

There was a Student Senate election last month, but you probably didn’t know that. Unless, of course, you were one of the two hundred and nineteen people who voted in that election. Two hundred and nineteen sounds like a pretty big number, but not when you realize that it is only about five percent of the total student body.

So, it has already been established that no one really cares. But, who is to blame for that? Is it the thousands of disengaged students who wander in off the train, attend a class or two, and then head straight home again?

I think maybe the blame lies somewhere in the leadership itself. How many flyers have you seen around school telling you about the Senate? I haven’t seen any. How were you informed about the election you were expected to be voting in? I only found out about it because I work for the student newspaper.

Maybe it was somewhere in that school email account that you check once or twice a semester, if even that. Maybe you never knew at all.

Ever heard of “leading by example”? Basically, if it were practiced, this would mean prompting students to become engaged in their school by showing that you, yourself, are also engaged.

Seante meetings are held every other Wednesday. Many times these meetings barely make quorum. So, does not showing up to represent the students who elected you set any kind of admirable example? Not in my opinion.

There are times that some of the student senators at these meetings operate with the same childish mentality I would expect to see on an elementary school playground, bickering and fighting, passing notes, taking phone calls, and such. Is this lack of professionalism any way of leading by example, or leading at all, for that matter?

But, we’re not talking about bits and pieces of sophomoric mentality within the leadership. We’re talking about apathy.

Last Wednesday the UMB Sustainability Club held Earth Day events out on the plaza. There was a table set up for the Undergraduate Student Senate. Only one senator manned the table for a short period of time. The rest of the time it contained only pens and notepads, no senators.

Of the 30 students in the Undergraduate Student Senate only one cared enough to show up and promote her organization. That seems like apathy to me. It is not just Earth Day either, it happens at other student events as well. Sitting behind the Student Senate table are always the same small handful of senators who are willing to take the time out of their day to welcome and inform the UMB student body.

Maybe some of them are stretched too thin, running or participating in other student groups, centers, or organizations. Who knows?

Maybe some of them don’t really care and are only in their positions to pad their resumes. I choose not to believe that. I choose to believe that the students who I have elected to represent me do actually care about me and my school. I choose to believe that some members of the Undergraduate Student Senate are victims of the same apathy that plagues us all.

The point is: you’ve got to change yourself before you can change your world. You’ve got to show the students that you care about them, that you take some kind of pride in representing them, otherwise they are not going to care themselves.

It is pretty simple, really. Show a little maturity when you are supposed to be conducting business that affects the student body. Sit behind a table once in a while and answer some questions. Go out and tell people who you are, let them know what you do.

Do more than just a few flyers and some advertisements in the student newspaper to invite the student body to engage in the democracy that you are supposed to represent. Representing the students of the University of Massachusetts-Boston means absolutely nothing when you are only actually representing five percent of those students. It means even less when you are not doing that maturely.