Non-trad offers different perspective on issues addressed by election

Paul Goebel

The Review wants different perspectives on the pending student elections. In my case, that’s the “old coot” perspective. I guess I’m what they used to call a “non-traditional” student. I’m not sure what the current label is, so I’ll go with the “coot” moniker.

I’ve been observing student government campaigning and voting at Washburn since the ’80s. I started here as a non-traditional student in 1980 and continued to be a witness through my years as a staff member of the Review. The last time I was eligible to vote, Reagan was still in office. However, I would like to address a few of the issues brought up by the campaign this year.

Why is it that over the last several years at Washburn, we seem to always have a co-ed team for president and vice-president? As I recall, we may have only had one team of woman for president, man for vice president. Does this mean only a male-led pair is capable, necessary or just plain what the kids will accept? I recall a team of two women being elected two years ago; what happened to that idea? In the ’80s we had almost exclusively male teams running for the top offices. I personally don’t care which set of chromosomes the candidates have. Sex and gender are really not an issue, and shouldn’t be to any of us. Have you looked at the world outside of your own neighborhood recently? Just because it took nearly 230 years to get a female Speaker of the House in Congress doesn’t make that the norm.

In looking over the Review’s current online Election Guide, I see that much hasn’t changed since the Izod and athleisurewear days of my first sojourn here at Washburn. Most candidates want to improve the college experience, bring more activities and events to campus and get us a ride home from the bar, ad nauseum. Some things will never change in the campaign. This semester we have several hot issues: raising activity fees, improving/enlarging the Student Health Center, creating a coffee house and the smoking referendum.

If there’s going to be an increase in the activity fees I want to be sure WSGA has a very specific plan for what to do with the funds. The Review reported “All…of the candidates are supportive of this increase – saying that the extra money could bring speakers to campus, provide more funding for student organizations and create a better student life atmosphere at Washburn.” The part about “better student life atmosphere” is pretty vague; my granddad would have called it a pig in a poke … I think I’d call it weasel words, election rhetoric or just plain bullshit. How will a few more dollars create a “better atmosphere”?

As for “fixing” the Student Health Center, assuredly there is a shortage of staff and space. Dr. Gonzalez and her small crew do a great job. I’ve been there both as a staffer and student, and I received quality care. A current candidate tossed off this comment, “No one is going to the doctor, because they don’t want to sit over there and wait.”

When I pass the office, it’s usually fairly busy, and obviously worth waiting to see the staff, and the price is right. If WSGA can somehow help with funding or input, that would be money and time well-spent.

My favorite non-issue is the coffee house. I think I understand the idea; it’s cool, hip and relaxing to hang out with a grande mocha decaf doubleshot macchiato. …

One team said of the coffee house idea: “Providing an atmosphere where students can come together and study and work and fellowship is important.” There’s that word again, atmosphere. The campus already has several places to study and work together. As for the fellowship, the Union has plenty of space for that. My experience has been that getting to know your classmates and fellow majors and to be a part of an organization will fulfill the need for camaraderie and peer association. The idea of the coffee cart with cheap house blends and biscotti at the library – I’ll vote for that!

For the last big item, there’s no need for a vote to decide to consider to discuss to recommend a ban on smoking. Now here’s a chance to improve student life atmosphere! If the student body insists, or even better demands that the student government, with the cooperation of the university administration, make our campus smoke-free, that would be a social, health and economic hat trick. What does Washburn spend annually related to cleaning up smoking debris and treating those affected by first and second-hand smoke?

The Review’s current unscientific online reader’s poll asking about a smoking ban shows 71 percent of those responding are in favor of a ban. Only 26 percent were against the ban. This is an idea whose time has come folks. As both teams support the students’ wants on the ban, the next WSGA administration needs to make this priority one. The current generation grew up in a K-12 system that taught them to know the dangers of smoking. Washburn banned smoking in buildings some years ago. The Topeka 501 district schools went to smoke-free campuses in the ’90s. St. Francis recently became a smoke-free campus. Several cities including our Blue-state neighbors in Lawrence have seen the light; now it’s our turn.

So there it is; my advice on the student elections. I didn’t endorse any candidates, or didn’t offend any large, powerful groups. Now I can get back to studying and doing what all students do – read, write, learn and live for the next paycheck and test.