A conversation with Professor Stephen Woolpert about student engagement during this election, and how students are using their vote to make their voice heard.
By Annika Henthorn
With the election results quickly approaching, many students have the opportunity to participate in its madness this year. However, with all the chaos that has transpired these past couple of months, voting can be an overwhelming and confusing process.To alleviate the stress of the upcoming election, Professor Stephen Woolpert has designed events and programs to educate students in the process.
According to Woolpert, a politics professor, Saint Mary’s is a part of the ALL IN Campus Democracy challenge. The school received a Platinum Seal in 2018 for its notable Democractic involvement. That year, Woolpert revealed, Saint Mary’s had a student voting rate of 50%, where the average is typically 39%. Saint Mary’s is also recognized as One of America’s Best Schools for Voting 2020 as well as deemed one of the 2020 Minority Serving Institutions that stands out for voter engagement.
The school has set an ambitious goal of a 75% voter turnout as well as to ensure every student is registered. In order to achieve this goal, Woolpert has “raised funds to pay a cohort of student interns to engage in voter turnout and education activities this fall.” These select students have encouraged students to register by using the customized site, TurboVote. They have also utilized Saint Mary’s social media platforms to raise awareness and announce the school’s partnership with National Voter Registration Day, September 22, and National Vote Early Day, October 24.
These goals are only feasible through the participation of the students. To take a closer look into what some of the Saint Mary’s students have been doing to prepare for the election, a handful of students have been interviewed.
One of the most challenging aspects of voting is simply the research to determine what candidate best suits the values of the voter. Sophomore, Cassidy Cole, has “looked at both of the candidates platforms to get an idea of what they want to accomplish in office” and “gone to multiple unbiased sources to reset the candidates themselves to see if I think they’d be fit for the position.” As easy as it is to rely on the assumptions of the media and drift in the tide of pop culture, investigating without preconceived assumptions allows the voter to really understand who the candidate is in terms of facts and unbiased research.
Another interesting aspect of the election is the significance of it to the students. Danielle Miller, a junior at Saint Mary’s, has described this election as “a matter of life or death.” In her eyes as well as many other students, “whoever wins will truly determine the outcome of our nation in terms of the coronavirus outbreak, climate change, reputation, and public relations.” Without a sense of urgency and personal responsibility within the Saint Mary’s community, the voting rate would drastically fall. However, students have proved that the country’s future well-being is a priority. Miller has also emphasized that “getting to see that Millenial/Gen-Z perspective through the vote is what will shape our government for the future.”
The Saint Mary’s community has an obligation to engage in the conversations of the country. Rather than being stagnant to change, students need to rise to the occasion and understand the loftiness that this election and future elections hold. As put by Mahalakshmi Murahari, a sophomore, “we are the generation that needs to bring about change and we do so by voting.”
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Ryan Ford '23,