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Pushing for political awareness

Good political knowledge can take you places you never believed possible. Just think of it: walking up on a stage filled with bright lights, waving at thousands of supporters, ready to deliver a major address to the people of the nation.

Ok, so while you may not achieve this, having a decent understanding of our political system as well as the politicians that inhabit it is essential. Some may even argue that it is our duty as American citizens, that we shouldn’t take our freedoms and our right to elect government officials for granted.

UMBC’s administration doesn’t typically delve into the realm of politics or political awareness, especially in relation to its students. So, what exactly are students themselves doing to spread political awareness and inform the young adults attending UMBC?

To find out, The Retriever spoke to Evan Leiter-Mason, President of UMBC’s College Democrats, and James Byrne, chair of UMBC’s College Republicans.

College Democrats has had a rather active role in promoting political awareness of campus, inviting speakers to discuss various important issues including but not limited to environmental protection and the abortion debate in addition to starting their own radio show on WMBC, which airs on Thursdays from 7-7:50 PM.

While Leiter-Mason, a senior political science and economics major, says that college “tends to make people more politically informed and engaged,” he believes that UMBC as an institution could be doing more to foster that growth. “[UMBC] could do a better job of proactively encouraging students to engage in the issues and the election itself, by holding more political discussions, lectures and events,” he said.

To that end, Leiter-Mason also urges that UMBC should close for election day, calling this decision a “no-brainer.”

In regards to why the university appears hesitant to promote political awareness, Leiter-Mason suggested that it’s all about image. “Universities in general are hesitant to insert themselves into the election process,” he said, “Because there’s a perception that universities are liberal havens and will act in the interests of liberal politicians.”

UMBC’s College Republicans have gotten involved with the spread of political awareness in similar ways, just on the other end of the political spectrum.

In regards to UMBC’s role in political awareness, Byrne, a senior biology major, shares the sentiment, similar to Leiter-Mason, that UMBC hasn’t done much. However, Byrne feels that it isn’t “a University’s main role to inform students on Politics.” The issue, said Byrne, is not that information is hard to find. “The main issue is that most people, especially our age, do not care,” he said.

So how can students get informed? Leiter-Mason encourages students to “find news sources that they like and trust to help them stay informed” from writers they “enjoy reading.” Byrne feels that a good way for students to develop an interest and understanding about our political system is to join some of the various political organizations on campus, such as College Republicans, College Democrats, or Young Americans for Liberty (YAL).

However a student chooses to learn, it’s extremely crucial for the future of our country that students and all Americans get involved in the voting process and learn how it works. It’s never too late to learn, and plenty of resources exist to get educated on American politics.