Letter to the editor: To avoid abuse, students need to get involved in local politics

Would it ever make sense to give the CEO of a corporation his or her own law enforcement agency? University presidents are not much different than corporate executives. Just like CEOs, university presidents are appointed by and accountable to a board.

When a university president fears a public relations black eye when students sit across a sidewalk on their quad with arms locked, as happened at Cal-Davis, students get pepper sprayed. When a university president sees a lucrative athletic institution threatened, as in the case of Penn State, children get abused. Search the Web and you can find case after case of rapes covered up, crime statistics fudged and high-status athletes and lecturers protected. A Des Moines Register article, “Universities should get out of police business,” describes it better.

But I would argue that the author does not go far enough.

What about the local police and elected officials in college towns? Who are they accountable to? One could argue that they are accountable to the community. But that is not the case. Local officials are accountable to those who elect and re-elect them. And those same elected officials are subject to pressure from organized interest groups such as university administrators, chambers of commerce, property owners, etc.

In college towns, students historically do not participate in local government even though they are legal residents. Most students don’t see their college town as their home even though census statistics do. Nobody encourages students to register to vote and get involved in local politics. In fact, students somehow see themselves as more like gypsies and choose to not get involved.

Imagine the power and influence students would have if they floated candidates that supported and protected their interests. Imagine if students voted en masse. Students run the risk of being abused by those in authority both on and off campus by not utilizing the tools at hand. Students in oppressed parts of the world are giving their lives for the right to vote. Students in the United States don’t need an Arab Spring. They just need to get involved in local politics.