I live at home with my family, a seven-minute drive away from campus. My parents pay for my tuition and anything else that I need. Unlike many students at Wits University, I have never had to consider sleeping in the library overnight because I have nowhere else to go, or had to ask myself where my next meal is coming from. It would be easy for me to sympathise, shrug, and say there’s nothing I can do to help my fellow students, but that would be untrue.
Wits is currently holding elections for its student representative council (SRC) for the year 2014/2015. Fifteen candidates each from the Progressive Youth Alliance, Project W and Wits EFF are running for office and, as campaigning has come to an end and the ballot papers are counted, many students have asked “Why should we care about student politics at all?”
At its most simplistic, voting for the SCR is the simplest way to make your voice heard when it comes to policy-making on campus. With your vote, you can make a powerful statement: I understand that a party not only represents me and the views I hold, but can effect positive change to better the institution as a whole.
One of the current SRC’s biggest victories has been to freeze the upfront fee payment – a deposit made on registration, which usually rises by about 10% each year – so that it will remain the same as it was this year.
The SRC also improved the success rate of appeals by students who were excluded for either financial or academic reasons from 40% to 75%, giving more students a second chance to complete their studies.
And it has helped set up an “escort system” that provides female students with security escorts when returning to their residents at any time, making it safer for them to access 24-hour libraries on campus, for instance.
If we care at all about leaving a better university to students now finishing high school, we must look beyond the issues that only affect us personally. SRC elections are about deciding who you can trust to make constructive choices to benefit those members of the university who need help the most.
Passive complaining about campus concerns won’t change anything. Voting is the simplest way to make your voice heard in the microcosm of society that is a university community.
* The results of the Wits University SRC election will be made available at 1pm on Thursday, September 4.