Letter: At-large seats hurt students

By The Daily Illini

Mr. Barela’s letter on Oct. 18 suggested that adding two at-large seats to Urbana’s City Council would improve student representation in local government. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Not only are student interests currently well-represented on the Urbana City Council, but students had many times been elected to and held their own council seats in Urbana’s ward system. Champaign’s district seats have also been held by student representatives.

In stark contrast, students have never been elected to an at-large seat on Champaign’s council. A look at other college towns nearby reveals a similar pattern.

At Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., students have run for a seat on their at-large council, but never were elected. ISU students have long been unhappy with their representation because their citywide-elected representatives show little interest in student concerns.

And at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., students themselves put a referendum on the ballot in 2001 to convert their at-large system to wards (it lost by only 545 votes). They were entirely underrepresented by the at-large representatives, all of whom came from a corner of the city that students don’t live in.

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At-large seats are elected citywide, and as such require big money contributions and significant party backing. In contrast, ward seats cannot be bought; they are won by knocking on doors and talking to neighbors. I urge my fellow students to preserve their voice on the Urbana City Council by voting “no” on at-large this November.

For more information on at-large, please see www.noatlarge.org.


graduate student