STEM civic engagement is crucial

Sanika Nayak

Politics are hard to keep up with — news changes everyday, and in today’s political climate almost all issues are divisive. But every citizen of voting age is responsible for keeping up with local, state and national legislation — especially students. We are essential in changing and contributing to the world we live in. 

It isn’t just the responsibility of government majors to be the voices of this generation and initiate change through civic engagement. Despite how removed from politics STEM majors may feel, they are also essential to the political process. STEM students need to civically engage with their community by voting because many relevant political topics directly impact science and technology. 

Data gathered by student organization TX Votes shows that out of all majors on campus, STEM students have historically had the lowest voter turnout. Data from a 2016 National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement report shows STEM majors on average tended to be about 10 percent less likely to go to the polls than other majors on campus. 

Chemistry junior and TX Votes vice president Maya Patel said that although there seems to be a disconnect between science and policy making, STEM majors must make an effort to go to the polls and make their voices heard in government. 

“Ultimately, democracy only functions when everyone participates,” Patel said. “Personally, I vote because to me it is important that people who have that right (to vote) take action on their immense amount of civic power, because there are so many people who can’t have their voices heard.” 

Scientific issues, such as the environment or healthcare procedures, are continually subject to public concern and debate. Many STEM majors have a background in these subjects — their civic engagement can make a difference in the decisions made by our politicians. By being well-informed voters, STEM majors can use their education to combat potential policies that threaten to undermine scientific and technological advances. 

Neuroscience freshman Rohan Singeetham said that the 2018 midterms were his first time voting, and that he urges all other STEM students to vote as well. 

“Voting helps to affect something bigger than what we might immediately think about,” Singeetham said. “There are a lot of scientific, environmental and technology relevant policies that we should pay attention to, and on top of that, voting can help get you the representation you want.” 

Patel agreed that STEM is definitely a part of politics, and said that those with scientific interests have a duty to help elect candidates that believe in science. 

“Most STEM majors have worked in a lab during their college career, and at least part of the funding for that lab is probably coming from a government organization,” Patel said. “If you aren’t electing people who are advocating for science, you’re not going to get that funding.” 

Voting and taking interest in current issues is not only important for those who want to pursue political careers. There are many reasons to engage in the civic process as a college student, even if you’re a STEM major. Although STEM may seem disconnected from politics, science and technology are extremely relevant to our modern, rapidly advancing society and will continue to be an important topic in the political world for years to come. 

Nayak is a communication sciences and disorders freshman from Austin.