New York’s political elections are less than two weeks away, but they seem to be the last thing on the minds of many St. John’s students.
Students have no problem admitting their disinterest in politics, but few are willing to let the blame rest on themselves.
“St. John’s needs to bring in more political speakers,” said sophomore Anthony Ferreira said. “It would also help if voting booths were brought to campus so students could cast ballots right before class. The University doesn’t do much to inform or encourage students about voting.”
Brian Browne, assistant vice president of government relations, however, feels he has done more than his share to educate students about politics.
“[Voter] registration forms are available at a few different offices on campus,” Browne said. “We’ve even organized student lobby days which allow students to go down to Albany and discuss issues with political officials.”
One thing that contributes to the fluctuating political interest of students is the unavoidable transitions within political organizations on campus.
“The last couple of years the College Republicans were pretty prevalent on campus,” Browne said. “This year there is no sign of them, and the College Democrats have taken their place. It’s hard for these groups to maintain a level of interest among students when their leaders graduate, and incoming students aren’t as motivated.”
Other factors adding to students’ apathetic stance toward politics have to do with the absence of politicians until election years. Many students feel politicians only talk to them when there vote is wanted. And when presidential election years come around, there is a lot of encouraging going on, but not much informing.
The difference between encouraging and informing is a factor many must consider when analyzing college students’ political interest. Many feel that political powers purposely avoid informing college students about issues to maintain a level of power.
“This nation prospers off its citizens’ ignorance,” sophomore Manny Jeter said. “The main goal politicians have when running for office is winning. It’s both easier and smarter for politicians to just swing college students to vote for them instead of truthfully informing them about the facts.”
On top of possible political ploys, the instability of a college student’s address plays a major factor in political apathy. Students want to wait until they settle down at a permanent address instead of voting for an issue that may go into effect long after they have moved.
“Many students don’t want to register on campus because they’re going to be moving around for the next four years,” Browne said. “It’s not a bad idea to request an absentee ballot and get involved in your local issues, but that’s no excuse for not being aware of what’s going on around your school community.”
It is best that students understand that many political issues affect them, and what they agree and disagree with will help them choose where to vote.
Students who want a say in college community issues such as off campus housing, transportation, and personal safety should elect to register at their college. Federal funding for universities is also based on student population, so voting within the college community makes perfect sense to university administrators.
Students who have a particular interest in local issues at their old address, or who could possibly be subject to taxes and student loan regulations at their prior address can request an absentee ballot from their home district in order to take part in their local elections.