The Oberlin Review

Students, Put Your Mouse Where Your Mouth Is

The Editorial Board

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We are Oberlin: Fearless, Tray-less, and now, Tomato-less. And because not enough people have voted on Student Senate’s Green Referendum, we are also quorum-less.

It’s not especially surprising that yet another Student Senate referendum has failed to reach quorum during its allotted time; in fact, this seems to be an unfortunate trend in recent history. We’d like to think, however, that a ballot specifically devoted to environmental issues would garner more significant student interest.

Among other things, the Green Referendum helps decide the way that Oberlin handles sustainability in the new first-year residence hall on North Professor Street. It asks students to approve a pledge to conserve energy and water and not bring a car to campus while living in the dorm.

This pledge is particularly important because the dorm will house first-year students, who will have the opportunity to develop sustainable habits early and maintain them during the rest of their time in the dorms here.

And while all of these things may sound obvious, the Oberlin student body and the administration don’t always follow through on their grand ideas. While students may not be able to enact such changes as turning Oberlin away from coal power forever with just a vote, it would send a powerful message if a vast majority of the student body spoke up about this and other green issues.

It’s disturbing, then, that after a month and a half only a small minority of the student body has voted in the referendum. What can it really hurt to spend five minutes of your day considering the direction of this college in relation to such concerns as the environment and transportation, even if your every demand isn’t met?

And if you don’t care about whether we abolish paper towels in all bathrooms or go take-out-container–less too, you might care whether the Student Finance Committee and Student Senate are compensated for their work. That is one issue that students who vote on the referendum have the exclusive right to decide. With the referendum still about 100 votes short of the mere 20 percent of the student body required to reach quorum, a tiny minority of us have expressed any opinion at all.

Of course, the survey isn’t perfect. Perhaps, many students are unaware of the vote, even with all the emails and information around campus. In an era when we are constantly bombarded by advertisement, it’s no surprise that students may unconsciously ignore these messages, even when information on the vote is blinking on screens across campus. If students don’t know enough about the issues to form opinions about them, the Green Referendum won’t tell voters where to get more information or give students a third option beyond approval or disapproval.

Yet even if the format of the survey doesn’t meet every voter’s needs, Oberlin students are great at expressing their opinions. We can argue endlessly over social constructs and the political implications of bananas, so why aren’t we putting our opinions out there when we have the chance to be acknowledged?

ResEd is very serious about listening to student input in designing the North Professor Street dorm’s programming. So if you care about the green culture that Oberlin students seem to be so invested in, why not actually vote for something that could very well help the next generation of students become invested in green living from the moment they step on campus?

Do you think that one person can change this campus? Vote in the Green Referendum.

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