Roughly 16 months ago, the United States entered one of the most divisive and remarkable elections in recent memory. College students have been inundated with wide-ranging rhetoric from both sides and have absorbed the sometimes-vitriolic reactions of many to this political climate. In order to gauge how this political situation is affecting Boston College students and better understand where students stand on these issues,The Heights released a political climate survey for undergraduates earlier this month. Six hundred seventeen students responded to the survey, which was made available through Facebook and academic major listservs. According to the final result, 56.2 percent of respondents identified with the Democratic Party, 15.4 percent with the Republican Party, 23.9 percent were Independents, and roughly 4 percent chose “other.” Of these respondents, 8.4 percent responded that they would be voting for Republican nominee Donald Trump, and 75 percent responded that they would be voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Involvement, through just the simple act of voting, is paramount in every election. Considering recent polls that heavily predict a Clinton victory, BC students are in even more danger of slipping into the indifference that commonly characterizes 18 to 24-year-olds in an election year. Many students at BC come from historically blue states, which increases the probability of passive behavior on Election Day. The Heights fears that the expectation of a landslide election, combined with the general lack of enthusiasm for the Democratic presidential candidate, could lead to a low turnout.
The Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) and the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) have both pushed for students to register through Turbovote. These programs demonstrate the importance of civic engagement among BC students, as both student and administrative groups push the issue. The political climate will be changed by this election no matter who wins, and those who would opine on politics in the future should participate in them now, or surrender their right to comment on future politically centered events.
BC students have already proven themselves to be politically aware and active, even if those interests are as locally confined as campus-wide policies. Recent demonstrations such as the “Silence is Violence” march in September and the activism of Eradicate Boston College Racism last year indicate a desire to improve inclusivity and accessibility on campus. Events of previous years also indicate a wish for more openness on campus, such as the unsanctioned flyers promoting free speech and the Rights on the Heights demonstrations. These events demonstrate the kinds of values that must be reflected in a student’s civic engagement. BC students who care about these causes have to make a choice: to vote for a candidate who represents these ideals and whose policies promote inclusion, or to vote for a candidate whose rhetoric has continued to proudly endorse xenophobia and racism.
The Heights’ political climate survey gave students the option to select multiple reasons that they are voting for their chosen candidate. The survey reported that 26.9 percent of Trump voters were voting for Trump because they support him, while 69.2 percent were planning to vote for him in order to avoid a Clinton presidency. On the other hand, 57.2 percent of Clinton voters were voting out of support for her, while 81.2 were voting to avoid a Trump presidency. This kind of negative mentality could lead to students’ opting not to vote at all, but this is not what they should do.
As members of a Jesuit community, students should consider what it means to be “men and women for others.” The ideals that BC students strive to excel in are, among others, leadership and service. View the right to vote as performing an act of community service, and the choice to watch an election to unfold without participating as an insult to people all around the world who are not granted the same opportunity to comment on their own political system. Vote to advance a candidate who does this, who advocates for the poor and neglected. Vote for the candidate who has continually strived for progress, not the candidate whose policies would set America on a backwards path.
One-sided poll numbers and a season of electoral discontent and vitriol could lead to students’ making the decision not to vote at all. Nothing is assured on Election Day and no student should be content to look at the polls and assume that the election is finished.
They must take part and should use their vote to promote the kind of progress that students have pushed for on campus. The only way to overcome the negativity of this election is to make a choice with your vote. Don’t let Nov. 8 go by without voting to preserve and advance inclusivity, Jesuit values, and progressive advocacy.
The Heights urges students to be a part of the generation that cares, to be a part of a generation that stands up for freedom and progress, to be a part of a generation that shows up—decisions are only made by those who do.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor