Last spring, when Erik Lowe ran for president of the Associated Students at Western Washington University, he stood in Red Square holding an enormous campaign sign. He stood there most hours of the day for two weeks. Some students mocked him. Others ignored him.
Lowe, a 2005 Mead High School graduate, grew a thicker skin and won the election. This year, the Western senior will lead the Associated Students – an organization that has an operating budget of $2.3 million, employs 200 people and sponsors or subsidizes about 500 campus events and clubs.
Lowe, a double major in political science and history, will emerge from college with management and budgeting experience. He’ll have contacts including college presidents and vice presidents and the other student body presidents he’ll meet at national gatherings. He’s also overcome a fear of public speaking, a necessity if he wishes to pursue politics in the “real world” after college. All this because Lowe made the decision to get involved in college student government.
Students interested in campus government are sometimes stereotyped as political junkies, CNN geeks and rubber-stampers for university administrations.
“People think of it in the same way they did in high school, but school government in high school is very different,” said Lowe, who recently accompanied Bruce Shepard, Western’s new president, to an editorial board meeting at The Spokesman-Review. “At Western, we have a say in how things are run. We have much more responsibility.”
One of the easiest ways for college students to get involved in local politics is to get involved in student government.
At most higher-ed institutions, student government officers generally receive monetary compensation. Lowe receives a salary designed to cover tuition and other college expenses. So he’s also learning how to budget his money. Another real-world skill.
The beginning of this school year coincides with a presidential race that has activated usually sluggish young voters. We hope it will also activate renewed interest in college politics. Out of this involvement will come some of our future leaders – and our best citizens.