By Michael Shultz
From the moment I looked at the ballots I knew the results for 80 percent of the student government elections. Why? Because there was only one candidate for four of the five elected offices. Six people were running for five positions.
I experienced a small, cynical joy at seeing the no-option ballot juxtaposed with campaign posters designed to inspire a sense of civic duty by encouraging each student to “Do your part.”
Mostly, however, I was discouraged and disappointed.
Matt Vorderstrasse, current and future RVC student body president, said that out of the thousands of students who pass through Riverside campus every day, just over 120 students voted. His only competition were write-ins such as “Mickey Mouse.”
The elections were a reflection of the apathy that has lingered about campus. I’ve been attending RCC for just over two years, and these last couple terms have been dreary in comparison to my initial experiences here.
I’ve personally witnessed a couple outbursts this term at intensities I’ve never seen in a college classroom, and in general, it seems to be very difficult to achieve and maintain momentum. Some of this may be because we are currently in the spring term, but the problem runs deeper than pre-summer laziness.
Kay Aldrich, a sociology instructor on Riverside Campus, said that although there are no studies or hard data to back it up, she has noticed this problem as well.
“I get that sense, but it’s just intuitive,” Aldrich said. “I think a lot of people are in survival mode.”
Aldrich has been full-time at RCC for about 10 years, and that students have always struggled to balance work, family and classes. Lately, she said, students have been more stressed than usual.
The problem seems to center around the economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oregon’s unemployment rate is 12.1 percent – second in the U.S. after Michigan.
Aldrich pointed out that the increased enrollment is partly due to the scarcity of jobs in the area. However, she added, going to school without a stable income can end up contributing stress. When students are worried about their future, it’s hard to focus on the present.
While there is no easy solution, one possibly start would be to hold a forum for students and faculty to address the problem. Aldrich believes this would help students to validate their problems. This would also build community, which would inspire students to collaborate on solutions — something the elections seemed to lack.
This school year is just about over. For many of us, summer will offer a relief from the stress that comes from going to school in a bad economy. Next year, students will need to work together, support one another, and help relieve the malaise that currently plagues RCC.