Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Vote or fail [UPDATED]

A literature professor has made voting (or at least entering the booth) in the upcoming presidential election a class requirement (yes, only for the U.S. citizens). As the professor rightly points out, this is better than using class time to voice her own political views. Universities exist in a large part to help students improve themselves. Libertarian principles do not apply on a university scale. A student enters a university and voluntarily gives up freedoms--the freedom to spend the evening somewhere other than a library, for example--in exchange for the opportunity to be turned into the sort of person they'd like to be. Universities, though, are more like ready-to-wear than couture, meaning that you don't get custom-ordered results. So, when signing up for this professor's literature class, you end up getting a bit more than you bargained for in terms of self-improvement. I say combine science classes with going to the gym three times a week and history classes with flossing.


U of C's Dean Susan Art, in her usual pre-schoolyear email to the College, has urged all students who can to vote in the upcoming election, and has provided instructions on how one goes about doing so in Illinois (instructions, I might add, that will probably lead to a lot of absentminded Chicago students voting who otherwise wouldn't have figured out how). And no, you won't be penalized for staying undecided. But I like that Susan Art did this, and I intend to follow her instructions for registering in Illinois (better than an absentee ballot, coming from NY).


Dylan said...

How does the professor propose to enforce this requirement? The honor system? What if there is no candidate that the student feels is worthy to be president? Can they cast a spoiled ballot? Why make them go at all, then?

This is a stupid requirement.

Phoebe said...

Did you read the post? It's not required that you pick a candidate, just that you allow yourself the opportunity to do so. And, yes, the honor system is in place.

Aaron said...

Register in New York, not Illinois. Your vote for president will have about the same impact. You're local vote, however, could make more of a difference. Granted, I'm not very well informed on NY state politics, but I'd bet your state's a helluva lot more divided than Illinois' One Party Paradise. Escpecially given a Republican governor. Or maybe not. I suppose it's up to you. If you need me to write you an email similar to that of Susan Art with easy to follow instructions on how to vote in NY, I'll do the necessary research.

Phoebe said...


I'm already registered in NYC, so I'd just need an absentee ballot.

Will Murray said...

A requirement to make people vote is highly sensible. People always love to talk about people who find neither of the candidates meet their exacting standard but the fact is the real reason most people don’t vote is sheer laziness expressed in a rational fashion. The expected value of your vote is tiny in that statistically speaking you are not likely to swing an election. The time cost of voting is quite real though, so a rational cost benefit analysis says don’t vote. Imposing a high cost on not voting, failing for example, overcomes the rational laziness which is the reason most people don’t vote.

Phoebe said...

True enough, Will. I plan on registering in IL at some "Beat Bush BBQ"--I suppose you can still register there to vote for Bush, not that I'm planning on it.