Students for Participatory Democracy – University of Canterbury

Students for Participatory Democracy is a movement to encourage discussion and participation in addressing the issues us indebted, academically-incarcerated, 21st century students face.

We as students have had our futures stolen from under us. We have slipped, and have been encouraged to slip, into a state of apathy about issues that are profoundly affecting all our futures. Reeling from relentless assaults on the university system by the establishment, our student movement has been fragmented and consequently fizzled. We have stepped out of the decision making process. The loss of our collective voice has imbued in some a paralysing defeatism and in others a cold cynicism.

Apathy was forced upon us by a political system that doesn’t listen to us, doesn’t care about us, and has no place for us. This is an experience by no means exclusive to the student population. It is endemic throughout our society. The result is what Victoria University academics Sandra Grey and Charles Sedgwick term a “democratic deficit”. The first step to negate this deficit is to reject apathy, and encourage the people around us to do the same. With this in mind we have established the Students for Participatory Democracy (SPD) – an organization that aims to promote participatory politics amongst tertiary students from across the political spectrum in Aotearoa, and to give voice to a silenced student population.

Apathy is a great buffer for peace of mind –  to be forced out of apathy is by no means pleasant. But neither is leaving the warmth of a bed, nor the womb. Apathy is the enemy, and the first step to breaking free is to be aware of where yourself and those around you stand. Discover your principles. Stand up for your principles. Challenge your principles. Rinse and repeat.

The University of Canterbury should not be a site for apathy. It by no means is, entirely, but there is much room for improvement. Christchurch needs an engaged student body thinking local issues. New Zealand needs an engaged student body thinking national issues. Earth needs an engaged student body thinking global issues. The current and coming generations face an unprecedented plethora of challenges, and those currently in higher education are set to inherit the responsibility for overcoming them. If we allow apathy to take a firm hold, our chances of effectively addressing tomorrow’s local, national and global issues are in serious jeopardy. Universities should be the cauldron of social and political critique, and our unions should be our political tool for our voices to be heard – the voices of tomorrow.

Participatory democracy centers on the simple proposition that for democracy to be effective it must be decentralised, it must elevate the voices of everyday people over their professional “representatives”. Voting for a different set of politicians once every 3 years is not enough. We need to look below and to our left and right instead of above. We need to be more than mere mouthpieces for those currently in power – they don’t represent us, only we can do that.

Change will not come swiftly; not today, or tomorrow, but the day when our generation assumes the helm.
Persistent apathy will condemn us to social and political stasis.

Students for Participatory Democracy is open membership. We encourage all students, former students, staff, future students, and general supporters to get involved if you are interested in organising in a horizontal and democratic way to address the concerns of 21st century students – that is, issues beyond lockers, microwaves and expensive coffee.

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