Faculty members to host pre-election events
With only 23 days until the 2012 presidential election, professors and students are engaging in noble efforts to ensure that citizens are educated about the political process and have the knowledge and tools necessary to participate.
Professor of political science Dr. Janet Adamski and her colleague Dr. David Holcomb, professor and director of the honors history program, are organizing two events open to the campus. They will host a political lecture 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. Oct. 31 and a Nov. 6 election watch party to follow. Both events will take place in Townsend Memorial Library.
Concerning the lecture, Adamski said, “Dr. Holcomb and I really want to talk in pretty broad terms about the two candidates, sort of laying out some of their points of view, where there are similarities and differences. There’s so much very heated rhetoric and sometimes it’s not all the way factual, so we thought we’d help to detangle and really have a conversation…”
Holcomb hopes to equip voters by informing them about the issues.
He said, “In years past, Dr. Adamski and I have held election forums to provide basic information about the presidential election, the stances of the candidates on certain issues and to discuss what are key issues that seem to be driving the election.”
Holcomb and Adamski say that all on campus are welcome at both events, but they are mainly intended to educate the student body.
A student who is concerned about the lack of political involvement of her peers is sophomore political science major Zoe Foster.
She was disturbed when she read a study suggesting that college students were the least likely group of Americans to vote in an election.
“What most college students don’t realize is that we have the lowest voter turnout, which in turn means that politicians don’t spend a lot of time focusing on what we would prefer. It’s really important for us to get our voices out so politicians will adhere to our voices and our preferences in politics,” she said.
Foster not only became concerned but decided to do something about it. With her own printer points, she printed out 50 applications for absentee ballots. She even spent her own money on stamps to ensure that those she passed them out to had no excuse not to mail them.
What prompted her passionate response to political unawareness was finding out that the due date for absentee ballot applications was closer than she anticipated.
She said, “I didn’t realize that the deadline was so soon. That was just ignorance on my part, so I thought, ‘Well, if I don’t know that, and I’m a political science major, who else would know it?’”
Foster said that while she was passing out applications, a lot of people were receptive, while others simply walked away.
“Some people just didn’t care. The apathy is concerning, but really, what can you do?”
Adamski hopes the lecture and watch party will alleviate some of the indifference among potential voters.
She said she was disappointed in the low attendance at the 2008 watch party. She thought more students on campus would have been involved.
“I would have to say there was not as much turnout as I had hoped there would be among students,” she said. “Maybe there were some other things going on on campus where students were watching the election, but I thought there would be a little bit more interest than there was.”
Adamski said that only about 10 people came over the course of the evening in 2008. This surprised her because of the historic nature of that presidential race.
Adamski wants to do more to make the campus aware of the watch party.
She said, “This year, I’m trying to do a better job of publicizing it ahead of time and making sure that faculty know about it.”
The party will be held in Townsend Library’s technology classroom at 7 p.m. with refreshments available for guests to enjoy throughout the evening.
Both Holcomb and Adamski hope the lecture will be a discussion as opposed to professors instructing a class.
Holcomb said, “We’ll both be there answering questions, and that’s what we’re hoping it will be — an opportunity to ask questions and have dialogue. We’d rather not have to lecture too much, but rather engage in conversation about the election.”
Adamski and Holcomb said an advantage of being in the classroom is that multiple computers will be able to access different channels and news media, enabling those in attendance to follow the election in diverse ways.
Adamski stated her primary goals for both the lecture and watch party.
“Certainly with the talk, we want to take out some of the heat and add some facts, and with the watch party, it’s not partisan in any way. It’s really looking at the results. Who is elected at the local level, the state level, and at the national level is going to have an effect on all of us …. It’s looking at what possible policy outcomes would be.”