Elections at the Lebanese American University are back, but what comes with them is unclear.
After the postponement last semester, due to political tensions, the administration announced that March 30 is the new Election Day on the Beirut and Byblos campuses. “March 30, 2012 will be a defining day on LAU campuses: you, LAU students, will exercise democracy”, the collective email from the Dean of Students said.
However, a student cannot but remember previous experiences with elections at LAU, when clashes occurred between the two renowned political blocs, March 8 and 14. A number of security measurements were taken to ensure students’ safety and their democratic right to vote.
Recall Aristotle’s definition of the human being: “Man is by nature a political animal”. Thereby, it is a healthy phenomenon to be politically active. Personally, I prefer to deal with people who have different ideologies from mine than those who have no ideologies at all.
LAU after all is committed to “…student centeredness, civic engagement, the education of the whole person, and the formation of leaders in a diverse world”, another letter from the university declares. Allowing democratic elections can mean opening a gate to the formation of leaders. Yet, who ensure fair and democratic elections? And to push the point further, what will happen to the losers? Will their voice be silenced for good? What chance of being heard do minorities have in the midst of a sea of majorities?
There are questions that remain unanswered. It is worth mentioning though that the election rules at LAU have changed to a “one man, one vote” system. Since this will be implemented in the upcoming election, students will have an equal opportunity to be elected, at least in theory. This, alongside the fact that the university administration has allowed the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections to monitor the elections, will hopefully ensure fair play.
Another such assurance comes from strict security measures on Election Day. All entrances will be monitored. Students will not be allowed to park on campus. Political and religious cheering and sloganeering will not be allowed. Wearing vests with campaign or groups’ logos or indicating any political factions’ colors will not be tolerated. Cell phones or similar electronic devices will not be permitted in the counting rooms. Elections results will not be verbally shared with students on campus and many more. If there is any disruption on the day of elections, responsible students will be severely sanctioned. This could include immediate suspension.
Something we’re far from is ‘unity in diversity’. Imagine the contribution of all the students acting as one. I’m certain that we can reach that stage, if we decide to change. Sportsmanship and ethics should define us, not ignorance and violence. Students should feel secure as they enter our gates, and not the way around.
Unfortunately, however, Election Day has become an intimidating term for many LAU students; this is why some of them have already decided that they will vote by not voting. On the other hand, some are still wondering along with Shakespeare, “To vote or not to vote, that is the question.”
Personally, I am voting. I am voting because it is my obligation as a committed youth. I am voting because I believe that we can change, and change starts with a whisper, your vote. And that whisper grows and becomes a call.
I call on LAU students of both campuses, not to avoid Election Day, but to go to the voting rooms and vote. Vote for the concepts you believe in. Vote for the runners who share your vision. Yes, you can! Raise your voice. Be heard!
Hrag T. Avedanian