Challenging the trend of student apathy

By Nicole Foussekis

If someone eavesdropped on idle student talk in the University of Calgary halls, they might not believe the city is engaged in an intense municipal battle for mayor. Yet while some students consider the race unimportant, others are enthused with political interest, challenging the generalization that youth are apathetic to politics. Some students are not only voters but dedicated volunteers on the campaign trail.

Second-year political science major John Hampson is currently volunteering as a researcher for Barb Higgin’s campaign, his fourth political campaign involvement to date. Participation offers students not only a chance to support their preferred candidates, but develop valuable volunteering experience as well.

“The reference letters, the relationship, the networking that goes on in the campaigns, you’re getting to meet people in the community,” said Hampson.

Fourth-year communication studies major Aneesha Birk aides Craig Burrows’ mayoral race. She voiced the practicality of campaign volunteerism for hands-on career experience and networking.

“I needed something that was community relevant to put on my resume just for job applications,” said Birk. “It’s something that I’ve always looked at as a career goal that I would consider, working on a campaign doing media relations.”

“I just feel like it’s an important election,” said second-year communication and culture student and Naheed Nenshi volunteer Alex McBrien. “Calgary’s at a point in it’s history where what we do now is going determine what kind of future we have 56 years down the road.”

Team leader for Nenshi’s on-campus volunteer group Donny Serink, a third-year English major, described political volunteerism as adopting a “world-centric” view.

“A campaign is a great way to become informed about what’s going on in your city and all the different issues,” said Serink. “To start to see yourself as a citizen of Calgary rather than just an individual.”

Political science professor Lisa Young requires her Poli 502 class to volunteer a minimum of 25 hours for a municipal candidate.

“The whole idea of this course was to give political science students practical hands-on experience with the things we study in the abstract,” Young said.

The course was designed specifically to achieve this aim, so these students get to complete their homework and get volunteer experience at once.

Despite the passion of certain students the issue of general student apathy remains. Young attributed a large portion of student apathy to lack of information.

“Information is a really important resource that brings people into participation,” said Young.

“I find when you start talking to students about things that are important to them they really start to see that their vote matters,” said Serink.

McBrien agrees with Serink’s assessment and wished more students realized the impact politics had in their lives.

“Everything that happens at this election, at City Hall, is going to affect you,” said McBrien. “If you want somewhere to hang out on Friday night or how you’re going to get home, the outcome of this election is going to impact your life.”

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