Parting shots

By Chris Beauchamp

I’m a sucker for tradition. At the end of every school year, the Gauntlet Editor-in-Chief takes the opportunity to regale readers about life as a student nearing (hopefully) the end of their academic career. What have I learned in the past five years? That it is important to stand up for what you believe in — the regret of sitting idly is much worse than the consequences of being unpopular. Dedication, hard-work and respect are all just as important as (and in the long-term probably more so than) grades or paycheques. And last but not least, university is about expanding as a person and taking responsibility for your actions. I could go on with the platitudes, but I think what I’ve learned forces me to address a larger issue. In two weeks time, Canada goes to the polls once again.

Again, tradition dictates that I muse about the benefits of extra-curricular activities. About how you’ll learn so much more by getting engaged with a club or volunteer organization that you’re passionate about and challenges you. This could not be more true. Passion and enthusiasm and drive are what ultimately make any experience meaningful, especially in university. There will always be a need for practicality and analytical behaviour, but these cannot lead to growth or progress on their own.

Now back to politics. While it may be impossible to ever really convince the university administration to give a shit about you — just ask the Students’ Union — students are about to face a decision that could possibly lead to meaningful change. The youth vote was a powerful force in Calgary’s most recent municipal election. I feel it’s safe to say that Naheed Nenshi would not have been so successful were it not for purple-shirt-wearing youth who campaigned on his behalf, even if they did so through all-too-often superficial tweets and wall posts. These students were called to a cause and their effort proved that a collective voice, even if not the graveled voice from a room full of 60-year-old middle class men, can have a significant effect on an election’s outcome.

Now, what would happen if every student who engaged in a campus club about poverty, the environment, politics or even ballroom dancing took some of that ambition and temporarily geared it to a national focus? On May 2, the youth have the opportunity to significantly change their futures. While I like to think that those who have taken the time to pursue a passion in university will continue to do so afterward, those who did not have as much reason to care. Everyone will tell you to make the most of your university experience, but I’m asking you to make the most of what comes next as well.

Don’t count on lobby groups or administration to change your experience for the better at the U of C. Sure, they’re all good people who take on these jobs with the best of intentions, but either you pay the fees and they do what they deem best, ignoring all consultation, or you leave and they don’t have to worry about you bitching too loudly. Want to write a well-researched paper this summer? Tough luck. Can’t get a loan and need to pay on credit? Woe is you. Want to vote for an ugly troll puppet during the SU elections? I don’t think so.

So here’s to breaking a tradition now and again. Let’s use the intelligence that brought us to the University of Calgary, and the motivation that keeps us here, to accomplish something beyond this campus. After drinking your face off at BSD, after studying for hours on end holed-up in the library, after writing that soul-crushing last final, set aside 20 minutes to mark up one slip of paper with your vote.

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