The stakes are too high for political apathy

It is 17 days until the 2014 elections, where voters will decide the control of the U.S. Senate, as well as vote for federal, state, and local officials. According to Real Clear Politics, 10 of the senate races are toss-ups, including the open seat in Georgia. So why does nobody at Tech seem to care?

I understand why Georgia voters are less than excited about their choices for this election. David Perdue is by all accounts an empty suit and Michelle Nunn strains credulity by running as an independent from President Obama and majority leader Harry Reid — more and more, it’s harder for politicians to be truly independent of their party leaders.

Still, who wins this race is nontrivial. Tuition is too high, wages are too low, terrorists are on the verge of establishing a base in the heart of Mesopotamia and in forty something years, probably none of us will be receiving the social security benefits we are now paying for. Which party controls the Senate will determine what laws we pass (or don’t) on minimum wage, immigration reform and health care. What happens in Washington certainly doesn’t stay in Washington.

Usually I don’t mind Tech’s often-acknowledged political apathy. I don’t usually have to pass protesters (last week’s demonstrators being the exception the proves the rule) and nobody is handing me flyers to boycott Israel or go back to the gold standard. I never feel like professors are pushing an ideology and I don’t feel that I have to hold a particular ideology to belong, if only because it seems sometimes like nobody has one.

The downside is that it often feels like we do not care about issues at all. Guest speakers and talks on policy issues, when they do occur, are often sparsely attended. Tech gives students freedom to demonstrate but rarely is this opportunity seized.

I know that classes are hard and people are busy, but by not taking advantage of opportunities to speak, the voices of Tech students are lost and other voices fill the gap. University campuses are supposed to be centers of thought and forums for public debate, and they often serve as an important voice in the national discuss. Tech, is uniquely situated to offer opinions on things like NSA surveillance and drone warfare.

College students are also an important interest group for a range of issues. Tuition has skyrocketed in the last 20 years and the job market is grim. There is legislation being discussed in the Senate to lower interest rates for student loans, to reform college accreditation and to make universities more transparent.

If college students do not engage in politics and most importantly vote, decisions on these topics will be made by somebody else.

Tech students need to take a more active role in policy and, yes, political discussions.

So please register to vote, engage in a discussion with classmates and on November 4, actually vote.