We are experiencing a very tumultuous time in America. Bombs have been mailed to politicians, innocent people have been killed in their place of worship and there is a growing partisan divide leading to friction and resentment.
The upcoming midterm elections are critical because both parties intend on grabbing a majority in Congress. The partisan divide has fired people up, making them eager to cast votes for their preferred party to gain control at the local, state and federal levels.
On campus, students have been stepping up to acknowledge political and social injustices on several fronts. For example, within the last year, students orchestrated a vigil in remembrance of the Tree of Life shooting victims and rallies to combat racism on campus as well as Trump’s call to repeal DACA.
As students aim to convey political and social messages on campus, the university should complement their efforts by showing support of students actively using their voices.
Different offices and initiatives at Lehigh, such as the Center for Community Engagement and the South Side Initiative, act as pockets of concentrated effort to help transform students into more active members of our community. But at an institutional level, civic and community engagement is not high on Lehigh’s agenda.
Programming that gets students involved in the Bethlehem community remains minimal compared to the plethora of academic requirements students must fulfill during their time here.
Providing opportunities to learn about voting and the political system is only one way Lehigh can encourage civic engagement at the institutional level. Allowing voting to be more accessible is another way Lehigh can encourage students to exercise their right to vote.
This year, four o’clock exams directly conflict with Election Day, which might discourage students from getting to the polls. We hope administrators and professors alike will be more cognizant of this in the future.
Although exams are important, the university should encourage students to focus on things that are bigger than themselves. In the end, scheduling exams around elections is not worth jeopardizing students’ rights to have a voice in the future of our country.
As time goes on, we hope that Lehigh will become more political in general. College students comprise our nation’s youngest voters and should be given the resources they need to become well-informed before casting their ballots. One way to encourage this could be mandatory coursework in political science, in addition to the general course requirements each student must fulfill.
Students in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), for example, must fulfill distribution requirements in order to receive their degrees. These include courses in mathematics, natural sciences and arts and humanities, among others. Students in CAS are required to take eight credits in the social sciences but are not obligated to choose political science. Perhaps a mandatory political science course would teach students the fundamentals of our nation’s political system — and emphasize the significance of voting.
On top of extended education, leaders of our institution, such as high-ranking members of the administration with far-reaching voices, should encourage students to practice civic engagement and vote.
As students continue to use active voices in today’s political and social issues, we hope the university will increase their advocacy for them.