A week after the closest presidential race in nearly 40 years, the question of student activism has been a growing concern on college campuses. In response to this call for activism, the Temple Issues Forum presented an event entitled “Whatever Happened to Student Activism?” on Tuesday.
Sponsored by WHYY-FM (90.9), the two-hour event was broadcast live on “Radio Times” with host Marty Moss-Coane. During the first hour, panelists looked at the political indifference among college-age voters. In the second hour, panelists looked at protests, campus activism and “service learning” projects.
“We take our right to vote for granted,” said panelist Michael Bassek. “Those people who say ‘my vote doesn’t count, it doesn’t matter’ are being disproved by the outcome of this election.”
“There is a division of our youth,” said panelist Li Qi. “Half are going to baseball games and not worrying, while the other half are busy caring about their future. And from what I have seen the lazy are a little larger than those who care.”
Republican and Democratic candidates found themselves arguing about small details in debates, while third party candidates were opening up a lot of big issues that dealt with college-age voters.
“Its terrible that Nader was not allowed to talk,” said Michael Bassek, a youth organizer for the Gore campaign. “Nader did a great job with the limited funds and only 2 percent to 3 percent behind him.”
The event took place in the Women’s Studies Lounge on the eighth floor of Anderson Hall with about 40 listeners.
“Young people were very interested in this election, but the candidates did not excite that interest by addressing your issues,” said panelist Duerward Beale. “The issues were to senior citizens, any look at the candidates’ stances shows that.”
It is “too difficult to vote,” said Bassek, a youth organizer for the Gore campaign. “Absentee ballots are difficult and there are inherent flaws in the way we elect our officials.”
Listeners had the opportunity to participate in the open forum either in person at the lounge or by telephone calling the WHYY call-in line.
Student activism is “a lot different than in the ‘60s,” said panelist Nicole Cousin, “today’s student body is over stimulated with so much going on at once to have deep thought.
“This over stimulation doesn’t allow students enough time to slow down and look at the issues.”
According to panelist Jean Lenke, there are other situations that make activism difficult including the college students getting older.
“Balancing the demands of a full-time job and full-time schooling doesn’t allow enough time,” Cousin said.
This election will serve as a catalyst for politics and the voting system. America will now “focus on the Electoral College and the electing system,” said Bassek, adding that it also serves as a “wake up call to ballot makers. Voting should not be confusing it should be easy.”
In spite of all the confusion and lack of activism, it was still found that youth voter turnout did increase. There was a 6 percent increase among young voters, according to Bassek.
Green party candidate Ralph Nader also received large amounts of coverage even though he was shut out from the debates.
Is this election a sign of things to change?
“Look at what’s going to happen (in) the next four to eight years,” Beale said. “History dictates what will happen.”