Last Thursday, New York University students protested against the College Republicans event where members of the chapter played a game called “Find the Illegal Immigrant.” The game involved students “hunting” for an illegal immigrant, which was really just a search for a person wearing a name tag that read “illegal immigrant” around Washington Square Park. According to a New York Times article, the event was not meant to be offensive but rather bring awareness to the issue of illegal immigration. This sort of shock tactic has been implemented by this chapter of the College Republicans before. Three years ago, the group threw an affirmative action bake sale.
However, while this incident may seem unrelated, it highlights a much larger problem with SJU’s own student political organizations; they have largely been inactive this year.
Granted, NYU’s event was controversial and accomplished nothing for the most part but cause a press frenzy for a day instead of opening up the topic for debate and discussion. But the mobilization of students by their chapter of the College Democrats, as well as other student organizations, at least displayed a desire for civilized discourse.
In contrast, at St. John’s University this year the College Republicans are suspended because of inactivity. The College Democrats have done slightly better conducting regular meetings. But that, in a sense, is nothing more than preaching to the choir.
The purpose of the College Democrats and Republicans is to provide environments where students can express their political ideals and learn the ideologies behind each party. In addition, these groups are responsible for providing a setting where students can challenge these beliefs through discussion and discourse via a public forum or debate. After all, sometimes there is no better way to reaffirm a person’s beliefs than confronting them with an opposing view. It forces self reflection and formation of a rhyme and reason to viewpoints rather than just alignment with a party for the sake of a political identity.
If student political organizations continue to be largely inactive, it only contributes to the notion that the current college generation is politically apathetic, which is simply untrue. The fact that this year was without a presidential election is no excuse for the voices of these groups to be reduced to a whimper. Many major topics for the next election are formed in the interim years, as evidenced by the immigration debate that boiled over this summer. In addition, the midterm elections should have served as a catalyst to promote political awareness and the parade of new candidates throwing in their hats for the 2008 elections are perfect platforms for discussions.
Kevin Medina, the 2004 president of the college Republicans and current graduate student at SJU, agrees stating, “We were once a constant clearing house for political information. People knew we were on campus. Since then, the leadership just sort of faltered. Now the situation has no political activity and now no one cares.”
The college years are some of the most formative, when students develop, explore, and practice their political ideologies for the first time. If these organizations continue their inactivity, they are doing a great disservice to the student body.