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In his most recent column, Jeremi Suri spoke about the importance of public transparency and accountability. He stressed the right of citizens to be informed. This echoes the fundamental democratic ideal – an informed citizenry.
In the past few years, public and private institutions alike have been scrutinized for neglecting individual rights to privacy. The National Security Agency collected volumes of metadata on web users. Samsung Smart TVs listened to customers’ private conversations. Facebook shared questionably descriptive user browsing data. Despite this exposure and opposition, political participation is still insufficient. Voter turnout is low. Constituencies are not equally represented. The demand for greater public accountability is coupled with dwindling political participation. If there is a need to change this, why don’t people participate?
One idea is that citizens don’t feel like they have an active role in their leaders’ decision-making processes.
Take the American youth, for example. Compared with previous generations, young people today volunteer more, are much better educated and are “less likely to drink excessively or use drugs than previous generations." They're civically active — they’re just not politically active. Twenty-one percent of 18-24 year olds voted in the 2010 midterm elections. The ethos of democracy and equal representation gets lost among the voter registration papers, IDs and boxes on the ballot. To citizens, our government is monolithic. And they don’t think that their vote will count.
Politically active citizens also tend to be well integrated — they are local property owners and residents. Students, and many other groups of people, are constantly confused and disadvantaged by restrictive voter ID requirements. They move often, from apartment to apartment, and don't necessarily have driver’s licenses or passports readily available. These inconveniences deter already low political participation.
The most effective way of demanding accountability and transparency from the bureaucracy is political participation, in which there is a clear disparity. In order to encourage greater transparency among our policy makers and public institutions, people must show up at the polls and demand it.
Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.
The Perry-Castañeda Library will start renovating the ground floor in December 2015. The 7,400-square-foot area will be reconstructed as prime spaces for research and studying by graduate students and faculty.
While plenty of attention is paid to the undergraduate services offered on campus the services supported for graduate students often seem minimal. As part of its Scholars Common pilot, designed to provide graduate students more visible help, the PCL plans to utilize its capacity and resources more effectively to make graduate students and faculty aware that there are PCL spaces and services just for them.
“On the entry level, I want the graduate students coming to see there’s something for them dedicated to their needs and the way they expect to use space,” said Jenifer Flaxbart, head librarian of research and information services for the PCL.
It is acknowledged that people have different study patterns: Some perform better when studying by themselves while others are more productive working in groups.
Though the PCL offers about 135 closed study rooms for PhD candidates, the number of students on the waiting list generally range from 5 to 20, according to Flaxbart. With the establishment of Scholars Common, graduate students can have the option of studying in a quiet space, or, if they prefer, going to the student landing spot to network with other students or have dissections.
In addition, the renovation is a pilot program that may have a bigger impact. After polling key constituencies, the PCL plans to use what it has learned to create larger, more compelling commons to accommodate more people on other floors.
For now, I just hope that this is a good way to reorganize the space, which can be fully utilized by students’ purposes.
The PCL is currently completing a survey seeking the opinions of graduate students, faculty, post-docs and staff about the services, spaces and technology support they wish the library could provide. To participate in this survey, visit the following link: https://utexas.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5mCUedZJ1kxk7at
Liu is an associate editor.
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