As the country gears up for the 2018 midterm elections, political debates extend further than cable broadcast smear ads and brightly colored signs and buttons. Since the waves of societal revolution in the 1950s and the antiwar cries of the 60s and 70s, college campuses have been at the forefront of protests, providing students with stages and platforms to share their political opinions and call for change.
But along Freshman Hill and Tech Green, student’s opinions on what their political involvement should be are as divided as the country.
For Emma Turner, third-year NEURO, political debate does not belong on Tech’s campus.
“College campuses aren’t the place to make a hostile political environment,” Turner said. “Instead of focusing on actual school work, people are just making themselves upset.”
The widening divide between liberals and conservatives in the country at large makes it hard for Turner, and others, to be comfortable discussing politics at Tech.
“[Tech students] don’t argue to learn,” she said. “They just argue to convince people to be on their side,” she said.
Though Turner strays away from political dialogue in part because of the awkward, heightened debates, Chandler Woods, second-year PUBP, sees these arguments as key components to strengthening political literacy.
“Political tensions will continue to rise, as Democrats continue to forecast a blue wave and Republicans discount certain polling models as inaccurate and unreliable,” Woods said. “It’s important to understand important issues at hand, as well as the candidates who supposedly take certain stances on those issues, to make an informed decision on who to support.”
While studying policy at Tech, Woods has noticed the trends in overarching political leanings of certain majors across campus.
From what he sees, “business is highly conservative, STEM is pretty politically-centric but opposed to high government regulation, and liberal arts is … inherently … liberal.”
Asher Stadler, first-year ECON and INTA, agrees with Woods in that college students as a whole should be vocal and informed.
“College students should stay up to date with the news and begin to formulate independent opinions from their parents, figuring out what they really believe about the current political environment and acting on it,” Stadler said.
Like Turner, Stadler is aware that through opinion sharing, some students can feel attacked or unheard. To mitigate this, he tries to engage in dialogue about current issues with a wide range of peers and hopes to become involved in a range of clubs.
Stadler also realizes that political activism is not for everyone, especially in the public stage of college. But to this, he does note the power that young, informed voters hold.
“If [students] don’t want to be involved, then that’s their choice,” he said. “But usually students are the ones to spur national political change.”
“I think that we hold a lot of responsibility because we’re so young and we have so much energy, and we also have a lot of influence over how politics in America can change,” said Anika Gouhl, first-year HTS.
Gouhl views political action as a vital component to the atmosphere of campuses, allowing students to exchange differing opinions and strengthen their own.
“Colleges are centers of learning and where ideas come together and influence each other with politics being a huge part of the dialogue,” she said. “This is the perfect place for politics to be discussed.”
Though many students in the Ivan Allen School of Liberal Arts see politics as a fluid, everyday discussion, it can sometimes be hard for students of other disciplines to agree.
Lilly Viau, first-year BA, agrees with Turner in that political debates can make some students uncomfortable, thus excluding them from discussions.
“I’m scared to talk about national politics on campus because I don’t want political stances to get in between me and potential friendships,” she said.
Though Gouhl understands others’ worries about voicing their opinions, she hopes that Tech students do not stop being politically active, especially around the midterm elections. Students have the power to vote in elections which have results that affect them.
“I hope that we’re not apathetic,” she said. “Because political apathy kills democracy.”