Political involvement on the decline

Sara Macho

Kent State becoming inactive, according to student organizations

A full course load, social obligations and a part-time job.

With the many tasks students have in front of them, it may be difficult to remain politically active and involved in the community.

And according to some members of political organizations on campus, student participation in politics is seriously lacking.

“There’s this stereotype that Kent State University is so liberal and everyone is so educated and opinionated,” said Yvonne Dunham, a graduate student in teaching English as a second language. “But the average undergrad is generally not informed.”

Matt White, president of the College Republicans, said membership has been down since the 2004 election cycle. The main objective of the College Republicans is to promote the principles of the Republican party to students.

But this may be hard to do on a seemingly apathetic campus.

Elizabeth Vild, member of the International Socialist Organization, which supports an equal distribution of wealth and resources across America, said not only students but also young people in the United States are apathetic.

“Many may agree with an anti-war movement, but they don’t do anything about it,” Vild said. “They have a sense of hopelessness.”

Vild attributes this “sense of hopelessness” to what is traditionally taught in the classroom.

“Students are taught the history of the ruling class, not the history of the working class and different movements throughout the years,” she said. “Students read only a blurb of how these movements got shut down.”

Vild also added that if a political movement gets larger, people will not get targeted by the ruling class and be forced to quit demonstrating.

Too busy to be involved

Some members of the International Socialist Organization agree that students may simply be too busy to be politically active.

“There are plenty of groups to be involved in, but students here are also very busy,” said Chris Kok, member of the ISO. “I mean, it’s like, do you want to go to another meeting after a day of classes or just sit back and watch TV?”

Kok said he thinks more than half of the Kent State campus is against the war, but students are not motivated to do anything about it.

“Look at all the anti-Bush shirts that students wear,” Kok said. “But they don’t engage in any serious activity to stop the war.”

The ISO and the Kent State Anti-War Committee recently held an anti-war and anti-army recruitment demonstration in Risman Plaza.

Some participants were disappointed with the attendance turn-out.

Arwen Niles, graduate student in teaching English as a second language, attributed the low turn-out to a lack of faith in anti-war demonstrations.

“People are jaded right now,” Niles said. “They don’t have a lot of faith that something like this would make a difference.”

Organization members disagree.

“We want students to take part in an anti-war effort,” Vild said. “It’s extremely important not to be afraid and think you have to be represented. Every person matters and counts. Just get up and do it.”

Past versus present

But it may not be that easy when students are living in a historically politically active college town.

According to Theodore J. Voneida, 75, of Kent, the events of May 4 may have triggered negative attitudes between Kent city residents and university students.

“Whenever there is a large university in a city with just as many residents, there’s bound to be problems,” Vonedia said. “These problems were exacerbated during the murders of 1970. A fear took over and that animosity has carried over today.”

Voneida has been an anti-war activist for 45 years. He hosted a radio program on the Cleveland station, WCLV, on the Vietnam war for two years during the late 60s and early 70s.

Nicole Robinson, member of the Kent State Anti-War Committee, said students led an anti-war movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s that showed the world college-aged students do care about political issues.

And campus political organizations are trying to get present-day students to become more involved.

Taryn Leggett, president of the May 4 Task Force, said students need motivation to care about politics.

“Students are stepping back unless there’s something that draws their attention,” Leggett said.

Members of political organizations offered suggestions to increase political awareness among students.

Andy Nelsen, member of the ISO, said students need to read more news publications and attend campus events, such as those featuring speakers.

Leggett said organizations need to keep people excited about events.

“Hold frequent events and advertise well for them,” she said. “Raise awareness by explaining and giving reasons to participate.”

Contact student politics reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].