Town Hall fails to bring students—again

We’ve written about it before: The sagging attendance at Town Hall meetings. This past week was especially meager, with only five to 10 non-Student Government Association, non-student media students showing up, according to Student Government Association president Michael Harriss.
Maybe they were all watching “The Office.” Maybe they had class. Maybe they forgot, didn’t get the memo, didn’t see the flyers around campus or event invite on Facebook. Maybe they didn’t care.
Whatever the reason, this past Thursday, Jan. 21, students missed out on the opportunity to sit down with top administrators like Father Laurence Biondi, S.J., Interim-Provost  and Parks College of Engineering, Aviation & Technology Dean Manoj Patankar and various other directors to ask them pointed questions about the future.
The profound lack of attendance and activism in things like student politics cannot, because of its scale, be considered merely a problem of the students. As Harriss said, the problem could be one of faith: Students don’t believe they can actually change anything by meeting with their administrators, and thus they don’t see the point of attending something like a Town Hall.
The attitude is understandable; after all, Biondi recently went over the heads of all his faculty to make drastic changes to the administrative system. If the faculty doesn’t have any input, why would a student?
But we do. At least, we need to demand that we have influence. It is so much easier for administrations—at SLU, in Jefferson City, Mo., in Washington, D.C.—to ignore their constituency if those people don’t rise up and demand to have their voices heard and their requests heeded.
It is not so easy to say that all students should show interest in their governments. We have classes. We have lives. But if we don’t at least try, if we don’t demand something of the people in power, we risk losing our already fragile participatory democracy.