Columbia has a long history of student activism. From the campus furor in 1968 to our Election Day break—a result of students’ petitions for time to participate in the political process—Columbia students have always been aware and engaged with the current political landscape.
We saw this in 2008: When Barack Obama and John McCain held a debate in Lerner Hall, campus was abuzz with political discourse. On election night, campus gathered to watch the returns on Low Plaza. Whether Democrat or Republican, socialist or tea partyer, Columbia students cared about the 2008 election.
Few can deny that there is a different feeling this time around. With the election less than 50 days away, we see respective groups mobilizing and individuals arguing, but see very little of the constructive political dialogue that found its way onto campus four years ago. Times have changed and so has the political landscape.
But Columbia students should recognize the constructive and unifying power that grassroots student activism can have on this campus. We hope that this community can capitalize on all the resources being brought to campus this fall and rediscover the political dialogue present in 2008.
While Columbia may not be hosting an Obama-Romney debate this year, we applaud administrators, faculty, student leaders, and student groups for the steps they have taken to generate political activism on campus. At press time, over 850 students had taken advantage of the TurboVote voter registration system, which was brought to campus by the combined efforts of the student councils, the Office of Residential Programs, the Columbia University College Democrats, the Columbia University College Republicans, and the Columbia Political Union.
We are encouraged to see partisan groups work together to further participation in the democratic process. When students on campus use the election to bring out a livelier civic spirit in the general student body, everyone wins.
We go to one of the most influential universities in the world. Many of us hope to make a difference in the future of this country (and many other countries). It makes sense for us to be politically aware and engaged. Indeed, some (like Thomas Jefferson) might even argue that it is our duty, as future members of the educated citizenry, to be involved in this election and make our voices heard.
If you haven’t registered to vote, you can do so at columbia.turbovote.org.