Presumed student apathy and reported lack of political activism on college campuses is a media go-to cliché based on discouraging national numbers. So-called “millennials” continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group, with only about 46 percent voting in the last presidential election. For better (Bernie) or for worse (Trump), the primaries and final results may however have engaged, angered or frustrated younger voters.
Happily, the UC Irvine community is working together to not only answer the problem of under-represented 18-24 year old voters, but to push back vigorously by inviting participation, modeling good civic behavior and even gently provoking. Indeed, ASUCI’s own impressive 60 by 16 effort, coordinated in concert with campus and community organizations marches toward meeting its ambitious goal of registering a majority of students at our presumably conservative, isolated and politically sleepy campus where, often, you can’t see the real issues between all the boba fundraising, silly “school spirit” spectacles and sterile, manicured, contrived corporate-style physical campus environment.
But activism is most definitely here, and has accelerated lately, as it should be. Staff, Senate faculty, academic student employees, librarians and lecturers applaud and support student government efforts, and many of us have joined them. Indeed, the labor unions representing librarians and lecturers (University Council-American Federation of Teachers) and grad students, (United Auto Workers), are on board, with instructors appealing to students in classrooms and during office hours to educate themselves on issues surrounding the November 8th election and, of course, to register to vote by, or better, before, the October 24th State of California Registrar’s deadline.
Some TAs and lecturers are hosting ASUCI reps and inviting local activists to address their classes, devoting instruction time to exploring issues informing national and local races, including the state ballot propositions. One California prop of particular interest to supporters of public education, including higher ed instructors, is Proposition 55. It would extend and reaffirm the voters’ most recent electoral expression of support for education, and prevent $4 billion in new cuts to public schools simply by maintaining the current tax rate on the very wealthiest Californians. It would disallow new budget cuts and would not introduce new taxes. It would ensure strict accountability for how tax money can be spent, meaning that the state legislature couldn’t redirect or decide to spend it on anything except schools.
This proposition, along with many others — from addressing marijuana legalization to death penalty reform, to stopping the creepy clown candidate himself — that you will see your TAs and lecturers out in support of ASUCI’s efforts. We mean to publicly affirm the importance of the student vote, and engage our campus community in city, state and national elections. Members of UC-AFT and UAW will be out on Ring Road in coming weeks, joining student activists in their urgent and thus far extremely successful efforts. On Monday morning, October 17th, for instance, we’ll be distributing union-researched election slate cards, and passing out free coffee, which goes nicely with a voter registration application. We’ll offer sugar, cream, Prop 55 literature and will be joined by local candidates including UCI alum and current Garden Grove Mayor, Irvine City Councilwoman Mary Ann Gaido, and others.
Stop by to meet these candidates for Congress and Irvine Mayor, chat with higher ed union activists, and register to vote. Or just get that free cup of coffee, with cream or sugar, and lots of solidarity from your TAs, librarians and lecturers.
Koko Dillon is Recording Secretary for the Irvine Campus, UAW Local 2865. Andrew Tonkovich is President, UC-AFT Local 2226. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.