Political awareness and activism at UF

UFCR and SGA host “Best Party on Campus”

By Sarah Stubbs

@sarahxstubbs

Almost 300 University of Findlay students made an appearance at a recent voter registration event on campus, which student leaders say is nearly triple the turnout of last year’s event.

But, despite the big showing, students say political activism still lacks at UF.

On Oct. 22, UF’s College Republicans, alongside TAG (Technology and Gaming Club) and SGA (Student Government Association), hosted the “Best Party on Campus” where students could register to vote, request absentee ballots, vote in a blind straw poll, and play games.

According to Rebecka Bedard, senior political science major and College Republicans chairman, the event drew 282 students.

“I didn’t expect the turnout that we had. Who would’ve known that almost 300 students would show up to a political event? I never would’ve. It was really encouraging,” said Bedard.

Attendance was high and so was participation.

There were two different polls at the Best Party on Campus: a blind straw poll and a more traditional popular candidate poll. Seventy-two percent of attendees participated in the blind straw poll and 89 percent participated in the popular poll.

“Lincoln Chafee (D) won in the blind straw poll, then he dropped out of the presidential race the next day of course,” said Bedard. “Then it was Martin O’Malley (D) who came in second and Carly Fiorina (R) who came in third.”

In the popular vote, it was Marco Rubio (R) first with 41 votes, Ben Carson (R) second with 40 votes, and John Kasich (R) third with 39 votes.

“I didn’t expect Ben Carson to be so high with the youth vote, Marco Rubio and Kasich I did expect, though,” said Bedard.

Bernie Sanders was the winning Democratic candidate – and fourth overall – in the popular vote with 27 votes.

At the event, College Republicans and TAG provided ample educational materials about each candidate and ran the polls while SGA ran the registration table. It’s a rule on campus that a bi-partisan club or entity must handle registration.

One hundred and forty-seven students said they were already registered to vote, 31 registered at the event, 19 applied for absentee ballots, and 28 were not US citizens.

SGA President and senior public relations major Nick Thompson thought the event allowed students to figure out their own political philosophies.

“Not only was voter participation promoted, but the Best Party on Campus also provided political education and discussion, which is the real purpose of these types of events,” said Thompson.

With the Nov. 3 elections wrapped up, the BPOC was the only event that encouraged students to vote this semester. Much of this is due to the fact that UF is a private university.

“There are a lot of rules on campus, so outside entities are not allowed to come in and do voter registration. Whereas at schools like OSU, there are pretty much booths every week for voter registration. That’s not allowed here,” said Bedard.

UFCR and SGA are currently the only UF entities that are politically oriented. UF College Democrats were a club last year and years past, but do not exist this year.

Thompson said that he hopes College Democrats will “activate as soon as possible” and Bedard expressed her disappointment, too.

“It’s nice to have that balance. I hope that someone can step up and help College Democrats reform because I think it’s important to have both sides,” said Bedard.

With the lack of a Democratic Party presence, Bedard believes UFCR often struggles to appeal to non-Republican students. She said there were several posts on YikYak from students saying they would not attend the BPOC because they were not Republicans.

“The amount of attitude that comes with a political label is crazy. I’ve spent the last few years trying to hold non-political events like the Ameri-Can night so we can get people in the door and then have those political conversations,” said Bedard.

One of SGA’s goals is to promote political engagement within the campus community, and for Bedard and UFCR, their goal is extremely similar even though there is a partisan affiliation.

Bedard hopes that much of the stigma was removed at the BPOC and students understand that UFCR has voting awareness at their forefront, too.

“We do a lot as College Republicans, we pay for postage for voter registration and absentee ballots,” said Bedard.

Aside from the BPOC, the only other political events this semester have been two informational events surrounding Issues 2 and 3: “The Legalization of Marijuana: Is the Grass Greener on the Other Side?” debate hosted by the Pharmacy program and the “If You Can Drink a Beer, I Can Smoke a Joint” lecture by Matthew Stolick, professor of philosophy on Oct. 27 and 29.

Bedard said that she was surprised there wasn’t more “informal” student activism around Issue 3 this fall, but concluded that many college students simply just aren’t interested in politics.

She says she wishes college students would pay more attention to the upcoming presidential campaign.

“This matters. If the next president is another two-term president I will be 31 by the time he or she is out of office. I will be married, have a family, and a career. I think that’s what our students don’t realize. What’s going on right now in politics affects us,” said Bedard. “The baby boomers are the ones really into the election and they are dying off. This affects us more than anyone else.”

Looking ahead to the spring semester, UFCR is planning on hosting their third annual Ameri-Can movie night and food drive and SGA will be hosting another voting registration and awareness event.

Bedard works for the Ohio College Republican Federation and always keeps voter registration information on hand.

“Meeting students where they are and showing them why politics are important is the best way to create awareness. We’re all busy, it’s hard to keep up with politics but it’s so important,” said Bedard.

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