April 18, 2012
By Amanda Kelly
With the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University predicting a significant decrease in voter turnout for the 2012 election due primarily to a drop in turnout amongst youth voters, Democracy Matters, the Department of Political Science and the Office of Student Development are working together to ensure that Iona students flock to the polls this November.
On Tuesday, April 17, Democracy Matters hosted a discussion panel titled “Elections 2012: Your Voice, Your Vote” as part of Iona’s “We the People: The Road to 2012.”
Comprised of Executive Director of Democracy Matters Dr. Joan Mandle, Attorney Jerry Sternberg of Westchester Democrats for Obama, Iona senior Anthony Berni and Professor of Philosophy Alexander Eodice, the panel served to engage students regarding the hot button issues of the campaign season.
Yet, President of the Iona College Chapter of Democracy Matters Annmarie Stepancic did not want the discussion to be dominated by the four panelists. Instead, she encouraged students to lead the discussion, engaging in informative debate rather than have the four panelists lecture for two hours.
“People like it when they’re able to ask questions during the conversation and be involved in the conversation, so that’s what we’re hoping to get out of this discussion panel,” Stepancic said. “We want the discussion panel to be based on student issues and concerns.”
In the launch of Iona’s “We the People: The Road to 2012” series, students were asked to participate in a survey question about the issues, their opinion of Congress and their opinion of President Obama.
Unsurprisingly, the issues that students are most concerned about are the economy and jobs, presumably since college students across the country are apprehensive about entering the bleak job market following graduation.
“I anticipate that many students will ask about the economy, specifically about finding a job, let alone one that provides you with good benefits. This is problematic in this day and age,” said Stepancic. “Even though the unemployment numbers are getting better, I think that the economy is going to be an issue for a lot of students.”
Stepancic also notes that along with anxiety about finding jobs, students also face anxiety over the paying of student loans with increasing interest rates.
Still, it seems that many Iona students are not as politically active as Stepancic and members of Democracy Matters. In the “We the People: The Road to 2012” survey compiled by Adrianna Dilello and sent out to the student body, 205 students participated out of Iona’s roughly 3,200 students.
While that may not be a completely accurate measurement of political engagement of Iona students (the survey was conducted during Spring Break), only 6.4 percent of students took five minutes out of their day to answer a couple of questions regarding their views of the upcoming election.
In addition to these results, Stepancic said, “I think that the fact that Democracy Matters is one of the only ‘political organizations’ on campus that is trying to promote political awareness among the student body indicates to me that maybe the Iona students aren’t as interested or as concerned with politics as they should be. I mean, ultimately politics affect everything that we do.”
Yet, is the problem that students are apathetic or are they simply uninformed about the issues?
The “We the People: The Road to 2012” series seeks to address both issues, and have planned events through the November election in order to increase civic awareness amongst students and encourage students to vote.
Democracy Matters in conjunction with the Council for Greek Governance will be holding a voter registration drive, with the help of the League of Women Voters of Westchester, on April 26 at 7:00 p.m in the Hynes Aerobic Studio in order to further motivate students to vote this November.
“Believe it or not your voice matters and you can make a difference. We are college students, our future needs to be built now and the best way to do that in a democracy is to use the most powerful tool you have in a democracy- the power to vote,” said Stepancic.
So, Gaels, mark Nov. 6 on your calendar and stay on the lookout for the continuing “We the People: The Road to 2012” events, in order to gain further political awareness and to ensure your voice is heard.