Thursday, July 31, 2014

Make a difference, cast a vote

Liberty University administrators voice opinions about the importance of student participation at the polls

As I observe the students around me, I notice little things that say a lot. One of these little things is the attitudes displayed in Convocation when President Jerry Falwell urges students to vote, or when a politician speaks at Convocation. And I am not talking about a warm, welcoming attitude. It is more like a sneering, critical attitude. It is something that sets my generation apart.

Unfortunately, my generation has grown tired of politics. We have been made promises of change and been told our problems would get better with little to no results. Do some simple addition: Politicians’ broken promises plus young people’s entitled attitude equals an uneasy relationship between the two.

What the majority of Liberty students fail to realize, however, is just how influential their votes can be in shaping major city decisions. Following the 2008 election when students were first permitted to vote on city issues, conditional use permits were no longer required for campus construction. Additionally, without pro-student representation on city council local food, entertainment and hotel taxes risk continued increase.

Most of Liberty’s major projects — such as the Walmart Bridge and the road improvements for the new vehicular tunnel — were constructed because of student votes and Liberty’s collaboration with Lynchburg City.

I do not blame my fellow students for their derisive attitude toward politics in general. But we must care about the city council elections for the implications that they have to us as students personally.

According to Charles Murphy, professor of Liberty University’s Helms School of Government, the problem is a problem of overall student apathy.

“I am certain that it is that students do not understand the importance of this, or any election,” Murphy said. “I think it is both a lack of information and a lack of concern.”

I agree with Murphy that there is certainly a lack of concern amongst the student body. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if students were as excited about being involved in the government as they were about Flappy Bird. Not even President Barack Obama would be able to handle, or promise, that much change.

So how can we effect change and get the student body to be concerned about elections, especially the upcoming Lynchburg City Council election? Associate Dean Ron Miller of the Helms School of Government has some ideas.

“I haven’t witnessed a lot of city council candidates on campus wooing the student vote, and that leaves the impression that they’re indifferent to them,” Miller said. “I think students would be more enthusiastic about local elections if there were candidate forums hosted on campus so they could hear from the candidates and ask them questions directly.”

I know many students feel less than ecstatic to take part in elections where they do not live, but most have lived or will be living here for four years, if not staying here after graduation.

“The university could use the various methods of communication at its disposal, like Convocation, to remind students to get out and vote and to tell them why it’s important to them,” Miller said. “Even though they’re here only temporarily, for most of them it will be a four-year tour, and that’s long enough for them to be invested in what happens here during that time.”

I believe that my generation is capable of some very great and wonderful things. I know we are. We have technology never thought possible, and it is advancing at a rate faster than ever before. We just need discipline, focus and a desire to effect change where it matters. Never mind Flappy Bird or Angry Birds or Angry Flapping Birds. We should be excited about what really matters. It starts by showing up at the polls.

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