Back when I was an AUB student, I used to get carried away with the politics of it all. Voting for this party or that will help change things on a bigger scale – I was convinced with that. And I always sought to win, at least during my first two years there. March 14th called themselves Students At Work and they’ve been that way since. March 8th change their name every year. The independents are not really independent and they’ve also become divided. You should also never count out the Jordanians and Palestinians and their sectarian voting.
During my third and last year of undergrad there, I realized that voting for this party over the other – at least in university elections – was ridiculous. My goal as a student was not to take political stances that absolutely no one would care about post the regular 24 hours news cycle. I should be voting for someone who would really try to help me as a student in my university woes. So that last year at AUB, I voted for a mixed list that included a candidate from Amal, a candidate from the LF, a candidate from the PSP and an independent candidate. I had even left an empty spot for lack of “qualified” candidates.
One thing that can be said about my AUB years is that you could always tell who won. As they separated students in front of West Hall with two huge screens and about one hundred security men, you only needed to count the chants, exclude the political ones, to know who won which seat and then follow the winning group to Main Gate and Bliss Street.
But it has stopped being this simple. Every year since, everyone seems to have won AUB. For instance, yesterday’s headlines read:
LF: A tie at AUB with a win in the “fortress” of the FPM.
FPM: A win at AUB.
And I asked myself the question: who won AUB?
Both sides will extrapolate the AUB elections onto parliamentary elections they both hope they’ll win. The FPM will read into this as them being a majority nationally. The LF will read into this as them being a majority on the Christian field. Both assertions are absolutely unfounded and ridiculous – but they will be made anyway. The students of both sides have already begun celebrating with Facebook statuses and celebratory tweets. We won, we won. All is well. Yay.
With rising tuition fees and a growing disconnect between students and administration, I can say without a doubt that who won AUB yesterday was not the students. Sure, it was a manifestation of free opinion, of democracy, of whatever rhetorical uselessness that gets you to sleep at night. And those students are entitled to their opinion, of course. Let them vote whichever way they want.
The problem is all of these students voting because of their political opinion don’t know exactly exactly how low the attendance in student representative council (SRC) meetings will be once those students they elected start “working” and how little they’ll actually do towards getting them that coveted unlimited printing or whatever promise they gave. And I knew this first hand back in my days: students win and eventually forget they did, until it’s time to mention it on their CVs. Some, from both sides of the political spectrum, rarely skip a meeting. And they try to change things. But they are always faced with an administration that counts on those who absolutely couldn’t care less outside winning and flexing their popularity muscles around.
As AUB students cast their vote against the weapons of Hezbollah or for the weapons of Hezbollah in that university ballot, they were all forgetting one key thing: how will their parents keep paying their rising tuition fees, along with all those university rising costs that are correlated with them? How do they feel about a lack of transparency with their professors and with their administration? How do they feel about AUB remaining the way it is for years and years without change?
Then next year will roll around. And all of these students will still be nagging about the same old things: where’s our unlimited printing? And then they’ll vote the same way again because a vote in AUB is one Hezbollah weapon removed or a firm message for the resistance.
You want to know who won AUB? It’s the status quo that both political camps in the country can erroneously analyze into a vote of trust from the youth that will most definitely be voting for them next year. But hey, it’s not like the “independent” alternative is much better either, with their hypocrisy, their under the table dealings with these political groups they’re challenging and lack of drive to work as well.
I guess we can really say it’s hopeless. The point is: voting for a political party is not a wrong thing to do… if you’re doing so for university reasons, not because some cosmic entity out there is out to get you. It is that courage of voting for someone who differs from you politically, simply because they are better qualified, that everyone seems to lack – and it’s easiest to vote as such in university elections, where your vote really doesn’t matter.