As someone who will graduate a little more than a month from now with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, I can tell you that I’ve heard so much about how important it is for students to vote that I now literally cringe at the sales pitch we all get come election time.
Of course, we get to miss out on that this year because for the first time since I came to Murray State, we don’t have anyone or anything on the ballot. It’s a nice reprieve to have, but it will make the rounds yet again, next year, as we decide whether or not to send our deadbeat senator back to Washington or select new representation for the Bluegrass State.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go out and vote next year in your party primary or in the general election – far from it! I would be an awful poli-sci major if I did.
What I am saying is that we – you, me and everyone in between – put too much of an emphasis on voting and not enough of an emphasis on other, more unconventional forms of political participation.
In May, when Murray State took it upon itself to invite Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to speak at Murray State’s commencement, I helped organize Ditch Mitch, Murray State!, a group of students who sought to get the Murray State administration to do just that. We got more than 500 Facebook ‘likes,’ 1,000 signatures on our petition at Change.org and got local and national media attention. We had a march through the center of campus and distributed literature. If students were aware that McConnell was coming to speak and were opposed to it, they knew our names and were involved in our organization.
McConnell ultimately spoke, but not without taking a few jabs at Ditch Mitch, Murray State! in his commencement address. That meant something.
We had gotten the attention we wanted, and we put the administration on notice – as evidenced by the hastily taped up signs saying that protest signs and masks (which had been used during the march through campus to safeguard the identities of students concerned about potential retaliation from the University) were not allowed at the ceremony.
I graduate in December, and I don’t expect to see another senator speak at a commencement address in the near future. We may not have stopped McConnell, but we made it clear that politicizing graduation was unacceptable and that we weren’t going to stand for it.
We did more to influence the University’s actions by protesting than any one of us ever did by casting a ballot for one of 10 or 12 identical Greek candidates for the student government.
I’m not saying that voting isn’t important, but we are all doing ourselves a disservice by not going out and causing a ruckus every once in awhile.
Real change always first comes from the streets, not the ballot box – the ballot box simply directs the course change shall take.
Devin Griggs is president of the Murray State College Democrats.
Column by Devin Griggs, Opinion Editor