Why you should care

Or, what student government can actually do for you

Sometimes it seems like the Undergraduate Association can’t do anything for you. After all, isn’t it really just the same powerless, ineffectual government-ish organization that couldn’t do anything for you in high school, either? At the end of the day, doesn’t the MIT administration really call the shots? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean that participation in student government isn’t valuable for other reasons.

Some people might think that their time would be better spent improving their own situation than participating in a student democracy where other students try and improve your situation for you. After all, this is America, home of the self-made man. Plus, you’re one of those super-smart MIT entrepreneurs who’s going to save the world and make a killing doing it. So why should you waste your valuable time and limited mental energy thinking about UA policy when you can just forge your own path? You’re only here for four years, after all.

But what if the solutions we can come up with collectively can serve you and everyone else better than what you could come up with on your own? What if there is a positive multiplier for working cooperatively? Shouldn’t there be some kind of apparatus to organize student efforts around coherent goals? Ostensibly, the UA can do this. But that raises questions of practicality and implementation issues ­— for every great idea we come up with, financial and bureaucratic roadblocks stand in the way. Fortunately, the point isn’t really to see every idea go from theory to practice. The point is to try.

Those who think that their time at MIT would be much better spent worrying about themselves, rather than working collectively as a student body via a student government, are laziness enablers. For many reasons, it’s much harder to care about campus issues and to try to work together to solve them. So most people don’t bother, don’t care, and take the easy way out — they just worry about themselves. But if MIT has been doing it’s job, most students should realize that the easy way out is never, ever as rewarding as a more difficult option. That’s why our school has a reputation for rigor and a reputation for producing successful scientists and engineers. It’s not a coincidence.

So even if you do believe that the administration will put a halt to any great and student-focused idea that the UA would try and implement, it’s still important to give it a shot. It’s a learning experience and it exercises the part of your brain that tells you to try something not because it’s easy, but because it’s a challenge. This part of your brain is why you chose MIT, but now that you’re here, don’t let it atrophy.

Don’t be lazy — give a damn about the UA, student elections, campus community and all that other stuff you don’t really care about now. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, run as a write-in candidate for UA president this season. And as much as you tell yourself now that you’ll be a proper citizen brimming with a sense of civic duty when you get out into the real world, it won’t matter a bit unless you’ve gotten some practice at it. So start caring now.

On Campus runs every Friday and features campus-related content from The Tech’s Opinion staff.