In last week’s edition of The Miscellany News, I had the pleasure of reading Joshua Sherman’s article about low-voter turnout in the last election. Since I spent over two months with Vassar Student Seth Warner’s campaign for Dutchess County Legislature, I thought I would give my two cents on the issue, specifically with regards to my experiences with Vassar students. Over my seventy-some hours on the campaign, I knocked every door in Seth’s district at least three times. On election night, two hours before the close of the polls, I knocked on them again.
Everybody on the campaign expected Vassar students’ turnout to be high. Why wouldn’t it be? We were sure students would turn out in droves to vote for their peer, who had a ton of great ideas. But oddly, student turnout wasn’t any better than that of the general public. Vassar has always been, and hopefully always will be, a community that encourages collective action and discourse in pursuit of common goals. Regardless of my opinions of the issues themselves, I have witnessed with admiration the growing
“Student-Labor Dialogue” on campus, the determined efforts of the divestment movement, the constant dialogue and debate on issues relevant to all of us. Vassar students will picket, and write, and plan sit-ins, and yell, and pound a fist or two, in pursuit of a common goal. And then, here is the paradox: an election rolls around, and suddenly this collective action falters.
Vassar students had the opportunity not only to make symbolic gestures, like divestment or picket signs, but to actually vote for concrete measures. Vassar’s votes could have swung the election in Seth Warner’s favor, leading to the closing of an actual burn plant that releases greenhouse gases into the air on a daily basis. But where were you, Vassar students? Making picket signs?
—Spencer Virtue ’16