Up Close and Personal with Elizabeth Warren
by Andrew LaDouceur, Leduc Center student reporter
On October 18th, Democratic senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren visited the school to further her campaign and meet with UMass Dartmouth students and Dartmouth area citizens. The event, sponsored by the South Coast Alliance, was held in the Claire T. Carney Library Grand Reading Room. Hundreds of people packed themselves into the seemingly large room for the chance to hear Warren's policies firsthand. The crowd consisted of a variety of attendees, members of the South Coast Alliance, citizens of the surrounding area and plenty of UMD staff and students.
The University's own Dr. Michael Goodman, chair of the Department of Public Policy, moderated the discussion. Dr. Goodman posed a series of questions to Warren in an interview that proved to be memorable for all in attendance. Aside from Dr. Goodman's questions, UMD students also posed questions to Warren. A variety of topics were covered relating to Warren's political views on numerous issues both local and national, from her views of the Massachusetts South Coast area to her concerns on the national issue of student loans and the accumulating debts.
A question posed by Dr. Goodman asked Warren what her plans were to strengthen the Massachusetts South Coast economy. As a response, Warren outlined a three-step plan. In her opinion, the state needed to invest in three fields: education, infrastructure and basic research. In education, Warren placed her faith in the teachers. She did not support the firing of teachers as a part of the public education budget cuts. She felt that teachers are working to build the future generations, and they should not be taken for granted. As for infrastructure, Warren stated she is an advocate of a South Coast rail system. She believes this rail system would "produce economic opportunity" for the area. As for basic research, the Democratic candidate said she is a strong supporter of the science and mathematics fields. She recognized these two areas are the most relevant to future generations and serve as a way to keep our state's economy flourishing.
A local high school senior asked the senatorial candidate what her feelings on Citizens United were. Warren responded by simply calling it, "A terrible idea."
A UMD student asked the candidate to explain how she plans to strengthen the middle class if she is elected to the Senate. Warren stressed spending cuts and the reshaping of the military budget. As she put it, the war is not at the peak it was a few years ago. She is in favor of bringing more troops home and cutting back military spending in an effort to focus federal funds on citizens here in the United States.
Another student inquiry asked the candidate about her stance on the student loan crisis. Warren confessed that she is "genuinely scared" about students and their accumulating debts for the future. She pushes for citizens to support, and take full advantage of, community colleges and public universities. She recognizes the act of putting oneself in debt for an education as a bit of a gamble, but as she plainly puts it, "Every dollar we invest [in education] will pay back for this country in the long run."
Engaging in the Elections - A Student's Reflection
by Katherine Rielly, UMass Dartmouth Junior Nursing Student, AmeriCorps Leader in Service
For many college students, voting is a new experience that can be overwhelming. Voting can be difficult when students are uninformed or misinformed about the candidates and issues, disengaged from the voting process, and, as a result, are ill prepared to critically think and develop their political opinions. During the 2012 elections, UMass Dartmouth, with the help of various campus organizations and students, registered 1,600 new voters and hosted a series of events to help address the hurdles that student voters face.
To engage students in voting, specific barriers inhibiting student participation have to be removed. Firstly, many students may be accustomed to basing their opinions on those of their parents or family members because they are trusted sources and they have not had the opportunity to discover their individual preferences. Secondly, students are not aware of the political candidates and/or their stances on specific social issues and have difficulty finding sources that illustrate accurate, unbiased information that can be easily understood. Political propaganda is pervasive-in newspapers, in magazines, on the internet, and on the radio. Sensational headlines and captivating dialogue attract attention, but is uninformative in shaping voters' opinions, given the lack of supporting facts. Since these ads target our emotions, it is easy to be swayed by the hype and forget the importance of basing one's opinion on factual information. Students think that an individual vote is inconsequential and believe their ballots are insignificant. When they doubt the impact of their vote, students, consequently, forgo their right to vote.
For many students, deciding to participate in the election depends on feeling a connection to the election as well as feeling comfortable with the issues being decided and the candidates being selected. In order to overcome the numerous barriers that inhibit students from engaging in the election, UMass Dartmouth supplied resources and organized events to help college students be informed and involved. Student organizations, such as MASSPIRG, actively posted signs and posters to publicize the importance of voting to the student body. Email reminders from UMD's Department of Public Affairs provided consistent updates to keep students informed on events, such as Debate Watch parties and Election Day information, such as polling locations. This year, corsair shuttles supplied free transportation to the off-campus voting stations to ensure every student had the opportunity to vote. Additionally, to prepare students for voting on Election Day, enlarged versions of the ballot were posted throughout campus, allowing student voters the opportunity to view the ballot prior to voting, in order to feel confident and prepared on Election Day.
UMass Dartmouth also helped promote student involvement in the election by hosting senate candidate Elizabeth Warren for a discussion. Held in the Grand Reading Room at the Claire T. Carney Library on October 18th, students, faculty, and community members were invited to listen to her answer questions regarding the race for senate, including her stance on issues, such as her plan to invest in the American economy. This exclusive opportunity allowed UMass students to ask Ms. Warren personal questions. As a student leader at the Leduc Center, I was invited to attend the discussion. Without any experience in these type of situations, I anticipated a very serious and potentially stressful environment. To my surprise, it was quite the opposite. When Ms. Warren arrived she was greeted with a standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience. It reminded me of a concert. While listening to Ms. Warren, I felt motivated to participate in the election because I was able to connect to the issues. The event was a great opportunity for students like myself to engage in the election and learn how to form one's own political opinions. This opportunity motivated me to use my resources to make informed voting decisions.
Completing the 2012 election ballot might be considered one of the most important scantrons students will finish this year. Not only did they vote for the next President, Senator, and Congressional Representatives, they also voted on questions regarding the medical use of marijuana, the right to commit physician-assisted suicide, and access to motor vehicle repair information. This may seem overwhelming and foreign without accurate information to base your decision, or if you are not aware of the implications of your decision on each issue. That is why it is crucial to use the resources that are available to you in order to be informed. All things considered, regardless of your beliefs, or whom you think would make the best political candidate, it is important to participate in every election because your vote is important in shaping the future of this country.
Celebrating Democracy: Watching the Presidential Debates
by Andrew LaDouceur, Leduc Center student reporter
What better way to celebrate democracy than with plenty of free pizza, refreshments, and a quiet setting to thoroughly view two Presidential candidates go head-to-head for the votes of the American people? A crowd of over forty students took advantage of the opportunity to view the third and final presidential debate in comfort at the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement.
The debate, aired out of Florida's Lynn University, was broadcasted to UMD students as they took the chance to fully understand the standpoints of both Presidential candidates. It was not the first time Governor Romney and President Obama went head-to-head in a debate. Similarly, it was not the first time the Leduc Center held an event to celebrate the occasion. A crowd of 250 people filled the Campus Center to watch the first debate, which was projected onto a screen for all in attendance to see. This time, Dr. Matthew Roy, Director of the Leduc Center, wanted to make the occasion more of a celebration than a simple viewing.
The room fell silent as the debate began. All students in attendance were glued to the television while the candidates took on questions regarding the present and future concerns of the nation. While the debate was centered on foreign policy, it tended at times to float into the realm of public policy. Dr. Roy noted that if the debate had been more focused on public policy, students would have enjoyed the debate much more. He went on to admit that the event was a huge success despite that.
Sophomore Raysean Brantley commented that, "Both candidates had relevant points," and that "either candidate would make a good president." In regards to the event itself, Brantley agreed with Dr. Roy and felt that it was successful in bringing students together to witness history in the making.
Following the outcome of the election, one would have to ask, were there things that could have been done differently on behalf of Governor Romney? It was felt by most that he had clearly been the victor in the first debate, but the two subsequent debates were deemed otherwise. The public seemed to feel that those debates belonged to the President. How much does a political debate impact the voters in a close election? This is one of the many questions to be asked in the wake of an election such as this.
Get Out the Vote - Reflections on the 2012 Elections
by Masi Faroqui, UMD MPP Student
Civic engagement has been defined on the Leduc Center's website as "actions constructed to identify and address issues of public concern". Throughout the 2012 elections, my concerns were the protection of the democratic nature of the voting process and the election of political figures who would make a serious effort towards representing the nation. Growing up as a member of a minority group, I have observed minority groups become the majority. Because of my personal experiences, I have chosen to pursue a career in public service, where I can advocate for individuals and/or groups who have been marginalized to help ensure a better, brighter, and more Democratic future for all.
I am currently a student in the Master of Public Policy program at UMass Dartmouth. As a part of my academic requirement, I have to complete an internship related to public policy. I chose to intern at the Leduc Center and help with the Coalition to Get Out the Vote.
My internship involved helping coordinate the "Get Out The Vote" initiative. Through a coalition of faculty, staff, students, and organizations, we worked collectively to mobilize student awareness and participation in the 2012 elections at UMass Dartmouth. Through the hard work and dedication of the coalition, this initiative was a success. The simple slogan for our initiative was "Be Informed. Be Involved." Student awareness of the candidates and issues was broadened through events, such as the Speak Up, Speak Out panel discussions and debate watch parties. MASSPIRG (Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group), one of the Coalition's members was a part of the success regarding voter registration. Ultimately, 1,600 UMass Dartmouth students were registered, engaged, and ready to exercise the right to vote on Election Day.
The Leduc Center enabled me to honor my civic duty by giving back to the community by applying principles and concepts I learned in the classroom to my internship with the Get Out the Vote Campaign. I am proud to have been given this opportunity since I view the Leduc Center as being a University model for encouraging public service by combining the need for building community with civic responsibility.
From this experience, I have learned that civic engagement requires movement toward becoming an informed catalyst. Being properly equipped with unbiased information is essential for communication between organizations, individuals, and the community. Furthermore, I believe my experiences have helped me head in this direction.