Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Editorial: DC Students Speak, But Still Lack Significant Power

Every Facebook user has gotten notifications with invites to groups, events and the occasional petition request. One group, DC Students Speak has set itself apart, but its efforts have been stunted by opponents and its own short-sightedness.

DC Students Speak is a one-of-a-kind, student-based organization that looks to empower the District’s college students. The massive, underrepresented population of students that resides within D.C. faces a slew of problems.

First, they generally are not registered to vote in city elections, lending their voices little credibility. It is also an undeniable fact that the state of D.C.’s students’ political rights is in serious danger. For example, the Georgetown campus is gerrymandered so divisively that a student’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission representative depends on the dorm he or she resides in. This is where DC Students Speak comes into play, pushing for student voter registration and more political representation. Needless to say, students are fortunate to have a group like DCSS in their corner.

DCSS has made its presence known in recent months with two prominent petitions that draw greater attention to student issues. They have worked tirelessly to coordinate support for the 2010 Campus Plan and have been leading opposition against the amendment to D.C.’s noise ordinances. But their enthusiasm for these concrete, if short-term, initiatives has been met with condescension from government officials and groups like the ANC. At the most recent Campus Plan meeting, DCSS’s attempt to submit a petition was initially brushed off and required two attempts to be accepted as legitimate. Questions were even raised over the validity of the student signatures. The bleak reality is that DCSS will have to expect this type of treatment until they begin to exert influence and pressure on elected officials, two critical things they have failed to do so far.

In order to fully empower students and convert their passion into tangible results, DCSS must focus on the bigger picture. That means pushing students to register to vote within D.C., which the organization has fortunately identified as a point of growth. While students make up nearly one-sixth of the population of our nation’s capital, these voices go almost unheard and remain unrepresented because students fail to register to vote. Other voter advocacy groups like the Citizens Association of Georgetown and the Burleith Citizens Association are able to attract the attention of local politicians and officials because their supporters are tax-paying voters.

Outreach to young alumni of District universities would also widen DCSS’ support base. Without the ability to leverage this large population with a soft spot for student rights, nothing will get done. To the ears of a city politician, a petition of well over 1,000 undergraduate students who cannot vote sounds more like a baby’s whine than the commanding voice of a serious political player.

But the path to voter registration is just beginning. Registering to vote in D.C. means that students have to relinquish the right to vote in their home state’s Congressional elections. Although they spend nine months of the year at school, many students still hold back in calling D.C. “home.” Registering students to vote in the District also raises some legal obstacles that will have to be overcome. For example, determining the specific addresses of each residence hall is necessary in order for students to fill out the proper paperwork.

The noble intentions of DCSS are commendable, and deserve the attention they have received. For the most part, they have been met with positive student reactions..But as the organization moves forward, ensuring their long-term ability to empower student voters and those who support their rights with the wheelers and dealers of D.C. politics is crucial. Students should step up and lend their support. By doing so, they will only improve their own D.C. experience.

To send a letter to the editor on a recent campus issue or Hoya story or a viewpoint on any topic, contact [email protected]. Letters should not exceed 300 words, and viewpoints should be between 600 to 800 words.

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