This election season is finally (finally!) drawing to a close, and hopefully you’ve already felt the giddy joy (or resigned dread) of waiting in line to vote early with a record number of fellow Texans. But civic engagement doesn’t end with voting — as students, it’s vital that we find ways to genuinely engage in local politics, even after the election is over.
Although much has been made of our generation’s lack of electoral participation, we have a well-documented enthusiasm for social activism, volunteering and other forms of service. But there is a widespread sense of contempt towards the officials we do elect, a phenomenon that was noticeable during Bernie Sanders rise. A way to partially rectify this is by engaging with politics on a local level and working on community solutions to issues that we are directly affected by.
Bailey Schumm, a public health junior and director of Hook the Vote, stressed the importance of students taking concrete actions to advance perspectives they want in politics.
“Continuing that excitement and engagement after voting is really important,” Schumm said. “Students can get involved in lots of ways — stuff is always going on in city hall. We’re about to start the legislative session, and that’s convenient because with the Capitol just down the road, UT students can keep track of things that are important to them. For example, last session, campus carry was a really big issue. It’s so easy for students to testify or go to hearings.”
Additionally, as student activism has surged in recent years, more college freshmen than ever before see protest as a viable strategy for furthering their causes. This is also an effective strategy for students beginning to get involved in issue advocacy. David Bemporad, an economics and government junior who serves as UT Student Government’s co-director of city relations, argued that students do not necessarily have the same connections or expertise as interest groups but are particularly effective when protesting or providing mass support for a simple idea.
“A good example of student advocacy can be seen at the city level,” Bemporad wrote in an email. “When the Austin Police Department released its plan for safety in the West Campus Area, a small group of students went to sit in and watch the city council deliberate. Certain council members continuously pointed out our involvement, and using us as examples, convinced the other council members to support Austin Police Department’s plan.”
Although our generation has an undeserved reputation for political apathy, we have all the tools for effective engagement in politics. If we don’t want to be quite so dissatisfied with our political leaders, and we want to actually bring about what we say we do, then it’s imperative that we stay politically engaged beyond this election.
Nemawarkar is a Plan II sophomore from Austin. She is a senior columnist. Follow her on Twitter @janhavin97.