On Civil Participation at FCLC

On Civil Participation at FCLC


Civil participation is the lifeblood not only of a stable democracy, but also of a vibrant community. Here at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), we are blessed with having both. Lincoln Center is different from your traditional campus; it’s smaller, mostly contained within one building, and everyone can be connected by at most a few degrees of separation. Because we have a non-traditional campus, we have a non-traditional democracy.

In most large democracies, citizens participate by going to the voting booth, partaking in a town hall meeting, joining a local interest organization or a combination of the given. But  FCLC is not a large democracy; it is a small one, and civil participation is not something that one has to show up to a particular place to do. It happens every minute of every day. Civil participation happens in the classrooms, in the hallway, in the elevator and by the locker when you’re getting your belongings. It happens when you relax with your friends in the student lounge and when you sit down to eat in the café after a long day. It happens in clubs. We are a small, tight-knit community and civil participation is in the very fabric that weaves through the halls of this campus. After all, why bother going to a town hall or United Student Government (USG) meeting when you can text your representatives, or catch them during lunch, in LL408, in the dorms or just walking from point A to point B? We understand the redundancy in showing up to a particular place to talk to someone when you see them on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean that civil participation is lacking, it means that we simply have a different way of going about participating.

USG is not trapped atop an ivory tower, in a desolate wasteland that separates it and the people of the school. The vast majority of the students may not come to USG meetings, but that is because civil participation is not limited to the confines of LL502, where we meet. In the past, many of the issues that were brought to USG were not done so in a meeting: they were brought up by word of mouth, which is an advantage in a school of our size.

Students participate in ways they didn’t even realize. Clubs, as some see as nothing more than organizations devoted to a particular cause, act as powerful interest groups in ways that people can’t even imagine. Clubs have a voice, they have a presence and they have power. The road to civil participation does not lead only to USG. We are one outlet, but our community has its foundation in the clubs that make FCLC their home. As has been the case in the past, certain clubs advocate for certain things that are within their scope of concern. Sometimes it is only the club’s representatives that will bring up their concern to us but they will be bringing it up on behalf of their entire membership and in some cases the community they represent. They don’t have to all show up to a USG meeting, for they already deliberated the issue amongst themselves, in an environment where they are comfortable doing so. And that’s okay. We understand that it is easier to discuss certain issues amongst people that you know and trust before crafting a final message. We understand that it may be overwhelming to show up to a meeting where you may not know absolutely everyone or maybe just not as well as you’d like to. And that’s okay. We want everyone to share their concerns in an environment where they are most comfortable, and if that’s in their club and not a USG meeting, that’s completely fine. Because when the club’s representatives come to us, they won’t simply be speaking for themselves, they’ll be speaking on behalf of a larger constituency. And through this way, democracy works. Clubs, as interest groups, act as the loudspeaker for every sector of students on campus. So whether you’re in USG, another club or have friends in clubs, know that your concerns are being heard.

The doors to our general meetings are always open. We welcome every individual, every new idea and every complaint. But the beauty of such a small campus is that democracy works in the places that you would never envision being “public forums.” And because of that, your voice is not limited to whether or not you show up to a specific room on a certain day at a certain time. We are one school, one community and everyone has a voice. 

Disclaimer: This op-ed only represents the views of the USG Vice President of Operations, and not necessarily that of the Executive Board or Senate.