On Monday, Oct. 12, I had the opportunity to moderate a political debate between the College Republicans, University Democrats, International Socialist Organization and Young Americans for Liberty. Over 200 students showed up for the event, and a great discussion regarding relevant federal issues relating to the current presidential election season took place. For me, the interest in this forum came as no surprise. UT, after all, has a long history of civic engagement, from Vietnam War protests that enveloped student culture in the ’60s and ’70s, to rallies and marches at the Texas State Capitol, to the removal of a confederate statue.
Although there was a range of topics covered throughout the debate and obvious divisions in party policies, all four groups showed moderate consensus for key issues that are affecting university students, such as immigration, the United States’ social agenda, campus carry, equal pay and the unemployment rate. Many of the participants highlighted the need for compromise within the United States political system, and most were optimistic at the prospect of electing fresh leaders who are willing to cross the aisle.
College students are a huge voting bloc, and if mobilized in an effective manner, we can alter the political landscape. However, it seems that candidates often lose focus on student issues when they experience the apathy of millennials that plagues the political process. This is an enormous problem. Since college-aged citizens make up over 20 percent of the United States’ national voter base, presidential candidates should see a need to accommodate our calls for action and advocate heavily on behalf of the broader student base.
As a college student, you are expanding your life experience heavily. You are given the opportunity to grow as a person, to learn new things and to gain an understanding of the world. You are being enfranchised and empowered with a great opportunity to shape your future by casting a vote in the presidential election. Although every policy discussed in the debate might not affect you right now, chances are, they will in a few years. Make a mark on UT’s political culture and take part in the great activism and discussion that has been an integral part of the UT student experience!
Throughout the semester, I have seen student groups that support presidential candidates pop up all around campus. Each group seems to have incredibly passionate individuals backing up the grassroots campaigns that envelope UT’s culture throughout presidential elections. This is so valuable to democracy because there is insufficient student participation in elections nationwide. UT is setting the standard, and I am proud to attend a university where political affairs are so widely talked about and promoted.
Engage in the presidential selection process by watching debates and discussing public policy, choose a candidate and be sure to vote in the presidential primaries on March 1, 2016!
Falke is a business honors and supply chain management junior from Houston. He is a university-wide representative.