In case you haven't heard, almost no one voted in the Student Government Association elections this year.
Which is almost news, considering almost no one voted for SGA elections last year.
In classic SEC fashion, though, let's compare ourselves to other similar schools. Two months ago, the University of Alabama wrote about "low participation in SGA elections" and UGA's elections barely had 10 percent of students come out.
It's not just the SEC, though. Florida State saw its voter turnout drop from 8,276 to 2,828 last year. Top 25 Universities Wisconsin and Michigan only had about 15 percent of their student body vote, and Central Michigan saw 8.7 percent of students voting.
Our 13 percent is starting to look good.
Everyone who's older than us likes to blame this apparent apathy on our generation — millennials are lazy or don't care. But that's false. We're being taught not to care.
Let's compare our university to some more posh schools: Brown is complaining about its 28 percent voter turnout. Last year, Yale had 56 percent of students vote, Dartmouth 53 percent and Harvard 54 percent.
This is a significant difference. These millennials seem to care enough to stand up for their opinions as students. The only difference between them and us is where they go to school (and all of the differences that come with that).
There are other students who care, too. UCLA's SGA oversees a $90 million budget every year and has the power to raise fees on all students.
This results in a healthy 37 percent turnout every year. LSU and UF have placed substantially more power in the hands of their student governments, and both have more than a quarter of students vote each year.
In these cases, students who know their opinion matters are willing to get up and vote. Go figure.
The Tennessee legislature has shown they don't trust UT students and SGA, and our administration seems to agree with them. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, who makes nearly $400,000 a year, has repeatedly made concessions to the Board of Trustees and our state legislature, but he has compromised little with the demands of students.
But how could he concede to our demands when we don't demand anything?
Universities of the past were political hotbeds pushing free love, liberation and peace. The civil rights movement, anti-war movements, and second-wave feminism were all intense and alive at the university level — especially at state universities. What's changed?
Let's take the California system as an example. In 1965, the tuition at UC Berkeley was $220 a year (this was generally common.) That same year, up to 5,000 students organized at Berkeley to protest for their free speech.
Then, Ronald Reagan stepped in. According to an excellent article in Dissent Magazine, "Reagan vowed to 'clean up that mess in Berkeley,' warned audiences of 'sexual orgies so vile that I cannot describe them to you,' complained that outside agitators were bringing left-wing subversion into the university, and railed against spoiled children of privilege skipping their classes to go to protests."
Sound familiar, Sir Campfield?
The apathy of University of Tennessee students is not a symptom of our generation. It's exactly what our institution and the state of Tennessee want from us. When students make demands, it comes out of the pockets of Chancellor Cheek, and it forces those who like the status quo (Campfield) to leave their comfort zone.
That's why students at Ivy League schools are so active — they know they can make a difference. They are walking the halls of past presidents and taking courses from world-changers. Their education is teaching them to change the world.
Ours is teaching us to keep our heads down and not cause problems.
Education is more than just economic training. It is meant to turn kids into citizens, to strengthen the power of democracy.
But Tennessee, led by Gov. Bill Haslam's technical education program, just wants to spit out kids with job skills, not citizens. No surprise we're not voting.
I'll end with this quote from Richard Russo: "Sending kids off to college is a lot like putting them in the witness protection program. If the person who comes out is easily recognizable as the same person who went in, something has gone terribly, dangerously wrong."
Evan Ford is a junior in philosophy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.