Should lecturers encourage students to vote?

Em Richardson discusses the recent controversy around a lecturer encouraging a student to vote

Em Richardson
16th November 2019
Wikimedia Commons
Nottingham Trent University lecturer Carrie Paechter recently caused controversy when she used Twitter to encourage students to register to vote.

She was reported to the police and the Electoral Commission, received threats online, and one person was so angered by her actions that they wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of the university, calling for her to be disciplined.

Paechter reminded students that they could register to vote at both their home and university addresses, but did not advocate tactical voting, or encourage students to vote for a particular party. The complaints against her came from those who interpreted her Tweet as encouraging students to vote twice- an act of voter fraud. Paechter insists she was simply reminding students of their voting rights.

Personally, I think those who object to lecturers encouraging students to vote have an ulterior, and much more unpleasant, motive. Their ‘concerns’ over voter fraud seem like little more than an excuse to criticise politically active students.

I think their actual aim is to silence the youth vote. For various reasons, some in society have long-stereotyped youth voters, including students, as uneducated and uninformed when it comes to politics. This is despite the fact that students are legal adults and, ironically, attend an institution where they continue to educated themselves.

One comes to university in the hope of obtaining a degree, but also in hopes of becoming a well-rounded, educated adult

In terms of whether a lecturer should feel responsible for reminding their students of their voting rights, I say: why not? (Providing the lecturer isn’t trying to push a certain agenda, or dictate which party students vote for, of course).

One comes to university in the hope of obtaining a degree, but also in hopes of becoming a well-rounded, educated adult. To me, part of this process involves becoming aware of our legal rights and responsibilities. I commend those lecturers who want to give their students more than just some subject knowledge and a degree certificate.

One such lecturer is Dr Gary Taylor-Raebel, of Newcastle University. I have noticed that his recent lectures have started with a slide encouraging students to vote. When asked why he regards this appropriate, he said: ‘I feel that a university education is not just about learning the subject you are studying, but also acts as a transition from school to a social and working life as an adult. One of the most important responsibilities of being an adult in society is to help determine the way the country in which we live is run. I think too many younger people feel disaffected by the system and that their vote will make no difference. It is obviously difficult to see this differently if you live in a very safe seat, but if everyone had this attitude then things would never change and decisions will be made which could adversely affect one’s future. It is therefore of the utmost importance that students understand this responsibility and are encouraged within an education setting to use their vote’.

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

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