By Jennifer Roach
Members of the Committee for Political Engagement (CPE) expect to have an active fall semester in preparation for the 2016 United States elections.
Before voters head to the polls on November 8 to pick candidates for president, Congress, and local races, the committee wants to help inform and inspire the Rochester student body to form their own political opinions and participate in the democratic process.
“Students know they should vote, and they do care about political issues, but with how busy college life is, it can often be difficult to find a way to take action,” says CPE member Riva Yeo ’18. “So that’s where we come in.”
The committee—which typically comprises around 10 members, most of whom are political science majors or students planning to pursue graduate programs in public policy—gets the word out through voter registration drives, by offering educational resources, and by running shuttles to the polling place at the Medical Center. Last year, the group held the Students in Political Activism Expo, inviting politically related groups from the Rochester community to table at a fair. Students were able to speak to representatives from the groups to learn about opportunities to get involved.
Plans for the fall are still being finalized, but CPE member Josh Veronica ’18 says he’d love to set up a debate between congressional candidates Louise Slaughter and Mark Assini, who are seeking the 25th District seat, which represents the University.
The committee, which is part of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership, also plans to create a candidate fact sheet that lists each candidate’s stances on the main issues.
“The issues and the description of each candidate’s stance will be done by the entire committee, so that the sheet is as educational and nonpartisan as possible,” Veronica says. “We want every student to vote, but more importantly, we want every student to make an educated decision. Students voting for candidates based on name recognition or hearsay is not the type of participation we’re looking for. With each candidate comes a certain set of policies and a vision for the nation. We want to make sure that students know exactly what they’re voting for when they head to the polls.”
Veronica, president of the College Republicans, says CPE works well with the College Republicans and College Democrats. Jake Sweely ’17, president of the College Democrats, is regularly invited to CPE meetings and is united with CPE in efforts to educate students about political issues.
“It’s important for students to get involved in politics because it affects everything that we do,” Veronica says. “The jobs we take, the products we buy, the roads we drive on, and the quality of our communities are all affected by politics,” he continues. “The political decisions of today will create the world we live in tomorrow, so we cannot wait until tomorrow to care about them. If we want to start careers in an economy that’s thriving or start families in communities that are safe, we need to get involved in political discussion immediately. Also, a healthy democracy relies on participation.”
Keep up with CPE’s outreach efforts on the Rochester Center for Community Leadership’s Facebook page or contact any CPE member.