Student Government hosted a gathering Tuesday evening for Boston University students to meet and converse with local city council candidates Michael Nichols and Josh Zakim.
Students who attended were able to register to vote in the upcoming local elections and to speak with District Eight candidates. District Eight consists of most of the Boston University Charles River Campus as well as the neighborhoods of Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Kenmore, Mission Hill and parts of the West End.
“We really wanted the BU students to have an opportunity to hear from the city council candidates because, in many ways, it’s more important for the students here to their daily lives than the presidential or congressional or mayoral [elections],” Nichols, who reached out to SG officials to plan the meetings, said.
Students are often not adequately represented in local elections, Nichols said.
“Young people in Boston are statistically underrepresented in Boston and statistically underrepresented in the decisions the government makes,” he said. “At least on my campaign, I feel very strongly that young people should be better represented in government here, and that’s part of the reason why I’m running.”
Nichols said it is important for college students to register to vote in Boston so they can participate in local elections.
“To register here means that they [students] can impact the cost of their rent in Boston,” he said. “They can impact the quality of the housing they live in in Boston. They can impact their transportation system in Boston. They can impact how safe it is for bikers to get around in Boston. All those things get decided at the local level.”
One of the largest issues in Boston politics relative to college students is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s lack of adequate late-night transportation options, Nichols said.
“This is a world-class city in so many ways with an antiquated, overly provincial public transportation system,” he said. “It doesn’t do what we need it to do in 2013. I know that college students have to be concerned with that.”
Zakim also said he encourages students to get involved in city politics.
“A lot of people discount student involvement, especially in local politics,” he said. “It’s awesome to see you guys involved and it’s a great opportunity to talk to folks who live in this district.”
Decisions made by the local government have an impact on the daily lives of students, Zakim said.
“It’s important that if you’re going to be involved in the community, and if you really want to put down roots, you need to register to vote, pay attention to local elections, and get involved,” he said.
Students should be educated to vote in smaller elections such as the city councilor election, said SG Director of City Affairs Cassandra Shavney.
“It’s not just the mayoral elections,” she said. “It’s not just the presidential elections. I think students get really hyped up for events like that. In part… it’s a fault of the media that they hype them [larger elections] up and they don’t put emphasis on these smaller elections that can have great influence in individuals’ lives.”
Shavney said city councilors are more accessible to students than officials who are higher up in local government.
“It’s at the local level where change is going to majorly impact students,” Shavney, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said. “Like they said tonight, it’s not a meeting with the mayor that students are going to get. It’s a meeting with these city councilmen.”
Shavney said she was pleased with how the meeting played out.
“We had a pretty decent turnout,” she said. “The candidates were pleased with tonight. They got their points across, and I think they really enjoyed the conversations they had with students.”
SG Senate Chair Avi Levy said students should vote in city-level elections to better their own experience while going to school in Boston.
“These are the people that are going to be representing them [students] and working on issues that are going to affect them, whether good or bad,” Levy, a CAS junior, said. “Students want to improve their experience while they’re here for school or even improve the lives of people in years to come. Voting and listening to candidates is the way to make change and help lay down the path for the future.”