Today: Jul 23, 2024

Get involved with your local government body

Hannah Doody – Special to The Southern News

It’s election season.  The sighs of apathy from the student body are audible.  “Politics don’t impact me.” Thursday evening I attended a civic engagement forum in downtown New Haven, which focused on how to get citizens to participate. When the topic of youth voting was addressed, no panelist could provide an explanation as to why the youth doesn’t vote, only statics reporting on the disparity of young voters.  The 2010 Census shows in Connecticut only 22% of eligible voters aged 18 to 24 voted. Why?

For one, we don’t feel connected to a community. A theme that repeatedly popped up throughout the discussion was when people feel a strong connection to a community they are more likely to participate.  Communities with higher levels of civic engagement experience a higher quality of life.  It comes down to feeling connected to the people in your immediate environment and realizing the power that is found in collective action.

Photo Courtesy | en.wikibooks.org
These were the results in voting in the 2008 election. For the 2012 election, recent statistics presented below say voting will be around the same or will even decrease in numbers.

In this modern age, we are continuously disconnecting.  Rather than start a conversation with a stranger while waiting for class, we turn to cell phones to avoid social interactions. This type of behavior hasn’t always existed. It is changing our cultural landscape, including how we view the political process. In past times, where patriotism was stronger, youth felt it was their civic responsibility to vote. That is a stark contrast against the current mentality of young potential voters. However, it is our own interest to start connecting for a greater cause.

Why does our voice matter? In Connecticut, 64% of eligible voters 65 to 74 voted, according to the 2010 Census.  How does that impact us? Well, if you were a politician and it came down to funding education or healthcare which would you support? You support the people that are showing up and voicing their beliefs. If there aren’t people, then you support the biggest dollar bill voicing its belief.

One of the biggest replies I get from students is, I can’t change anything.  As a generation whose needs are satisfied with just a click, it can be challenging to see change start so small. In order to change the national political climate, you have to start locally.            Politics influence everything from what you eat to what websites you browse.  Perhaps an issue all students can relate to is the rising cost of a higher education. As a state school, SCSU is supposed to be accessible to a range of economic classes.  The wealth gap and influence of money in politics is becoming increasingly noticeable. Textbooks? Student loans? We can all agree these are issues that impact us.

Public Campaign, a non-partisan, non-profit organization recently published a few facts regarding loans, tuition and textbooks:

-The student loan industry has spent $50.1 million lobbying Congress and $7.7 million in campaign contributions since 2000.

-Pell grants cover less than half of the proportion of college costs than they did 30 years ago due to the rising cost of tuition.

-The textbook industry has donated $1.4 million in campaign contributions and another $35 million was spent in lobbying since 2000.

It may be hard to see how corporate lobbying and campaign contributions impact you. In short, policies are being passed in favor of private interests, ignoring the interests of the public. It can be challenging to talk about politics. A new student group, Democracy Matters (DM) is working to engage, inform and empower students.  We are part of a national, non-partisan organization that works to take big money out of politics and put the people back in. Politicians should be listening to the students, not the textbook and student loan industries.

Join us to encourage discussion about money and politics in the SCSU and greater New Haven communities. We meet every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in Englemen C027. Some events to look out for include watching presidential debates together, as well as voter registration drives. Also, the Adanti Student Center help desk has voter registration forms. Become a registered and informed voter.

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