Election season is upon us and as candidates face off in debates, college students seek information about candidate policies, particularly in regards to diversity, education, the economy and the environment.
A survey by the Pew Research Center conducted in July established the top 14 issues voters are concerned with in the coming presidential election. The survey broke down the results by age group and found the most important issues to young adults — ages 18 to 29 — is the treatment of minorities, specifically the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities as well as the treatment of LGBT individuals. The economy, education and environment were also top areas of concern for Americans, according to the research.
Diversity and Policies at the Local Level
College Republicans President Ben Terrell says he thinks Truman State University’s new action plan and its focus on inclusivity is a testament to Truman’s focus on diversity.
Terrell says his experiences as a student adviser taught him all opinions are important whether they are Democrat or Republican.
Terrell says he thinks it would be difficult for a president to address issues of diversity at the national level. As a Republican, he says he believes these issues should be considered at the local level instead.
“It’s easier for us to go talk with our county officials than it is to go talk with President Obama,” Terrell says. “We can have more influence over it.”
College Democrats President Andy Mangrum says he thinks one of the reasons so much progress has been made during the last ten years in areas of LGBT and minority rights is because of college students.
Mangrum says it’s interesting to see a national election with a candidate such as Hillary Clinton who is addressing treatment of these minorities, even if 12 years ago she might have voted against transgender rights legislation. Her voting record can be explained, Mangrum says, by the way the world has changed, as candidates such as Clinton are speaking up for those sectors of people.
“In 2004, there was zero chance anything was ever going to get moved on LGBT rights,” Mangrum explains.
Magnum says he believes people are upset with the state of affairs in higher education and the fact students have acquired over $1.2 trillion in debt. Constantly inflating rates of college tuition rates are frustrating and need to be addressed, Mangrum says.
“The state legislators aren’t helping to pick up the dime, the federal government’s not helping pick up the dime and they’re defunding what they usually do,” Mangrum elaborates.
Mangrum says corporate spending is another important issue to college students. Young people want to be able to make a difference in their world, but Mangrum says they can’t with the amount of corporate spending on elections.
Carol Bennett, director of the Multicultural Affairs Center, says while she thinks diversity is an issue important to most college students, she thinks students take action at the local level to address their concerns.
Bennett says she thinks this election hasn’t done a great job of highlighting issues of diversity and answering the public’s questions.
Bennett says she doesn’t think Clinton and Trump are being clear about what their diversity policies are. She says neither candidate is speaking about anything other than underrepresented groups in terms of criminality. Bennett says she thinks this is because you can’t create policies or plans for diverse spaces.
Bennett says she thinks college administrations should focus more on catching up with students when it comes to issues of diversity.
“I’ve always said that when we deal with diversity and inclusion, it’s a top down model we should have,” Bennett says. “Our student population speaks out on issues, and they’re very bold.”