On Jan. 20, the United States welcomed its 46th president, Joe Biden into office. In his speech, Biden addressed the nation for the first time, promising to bring together people of different beliefs to create a more united country. Some of the Biden administration’s new policies are targeted to aid those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically college-aged students.
While political involvement may not be for everyone, the college has multiple clubs and organizations that allow students to explore their political side. The Political Engagement and Leadership Alliance (PELA) at the college is the most popular political club for students to learn about the importance of local and national politics. The club’s goal is to increase student engagement in the community with activities and meetings. The club is non-partisan, meaning that they do not align with any political party. Their intention is to enhance political awareness, engagement, and leadership skills for students at the college.
Student, Kate Boyer has been involved with PELA for almost two years and recently became the organization’s president.
“I’m an officer in four clubs, but the most relevant is that I’m the president of the Political Engagement Leadership Alliance,” Boyer said. “Honestly, I joined it because I wanted to join as many clubs as possible and I just found myself in charge of it. I enjoy engaging with students politically; politics has been a huge part of my life for a little while now and I like teaching students about current events and helping them become aware of things like that.”
As the president, Boyer oversees organizing the club’s meetings as well as any events the club may have. While Boyer has only been president for one full semester, she has been quite busy as the college has continued to not allow on-campus events from happening. Many of the events that Boyer has orchestrated have been virtual.
“I facilitate discussions and help create events that students can partake in to learn more about politics,” Boyer said. “We have put on two town halls with election candidates. We [also did] a campaign about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We’ve done a few discussion events, one of them was about sustainability and another was with the Black Student Union.”
While it has been challenging to keep students engaged during a pandemic, Boyer hopes that for the members involved in the organization come out of it more informed and aware of current events. In addition to being interested in politics herself, Boyer believes that more of her peers should be aware of political affairs.
“I feel that my peers have a lot of power in politics, we’re a large age group and I feel that we could change the world,” Boyer said.
The Political Engagement Leadership Alliance focuses on getting students involved with politics in general however, there are clubs at the college that focus in on specific party issues. The College Democrats is one of these organizations that look at political issues affecting the Democratic party from a local and national viewpoint. Kat Hooley-Lickteig is one of the few active members of College Democrats and has been involved with the club since last semester.
“I’m very active in our counties, political organizations,” Hooley-Lickteig said. “I wanted to meet and network with other that shared my views at the college. [Also,] I wanted to find new ways to get involved and share ways that I’d found with other students.”
Similarly, to Boyer, Hooley-Lickteig believes that college students should be more involved in politics, especially on a local level.
“I was the campus election Engagement Project Fellow for JCCC last semester and one of the reasons why I think it’s so important for college students to get involved [with politics] is because they don’t realize how much their vote makes a difference,” Hooley-Lickteig said. “I mean we had local races decided by less than 10 votes last November, so it’s very important.”
Hooley-Lickteig understands the importance of national elections like the 2020 presidential race, but also wants to emphasize that local elections are just as important too. This is something that Hooley-Lickteig struggles with especially when it comes to college students. There seems to be a lack of interest when it comes to college students and voting.
“I think that a big reason that [college students aren’t interested] would be from the 2016 election,” Hooley-Lickteig said. “If the candidate that got more votes didn’t win, then how does my voice matter? That’s a concern a lot of people have, and I wish I could say it was unfounded. My personal feelings are that it’s very substantiated worry. I wish I could tell those people that feel their vote doesn’t matter is that they may be right on the national level, but to your local representatives that got 4000 votes and lost by seven, your vote could have been the one that made the difference.”
For one student, being aware of what’s going on locally comes almost as second nature. While she isn’t involved in any political clubs on campus, Megan McDonald keeps herself updated on what is happening in her area.
“I try to keep myself as educated as possible on what’s going on in the world,” McDonald said. “I like to know what’s going on especially with local stuff because I feel like that’s a little bit more important than what goes on in a whole different state. People should be more involved politically and I feel like [clubs] are great ways to become educated on problems and whatnot, especially if you’re very lenient towards one side.”
While all the political organizations at the college are fully operational with virtual meetings and events, they are struggling to maintain their membership. Due to the pandemic, the college cancelled all in-person events which makes it difficult for clubs to get new members. This is an issue that is felt throughout all organizations and clubs at the college. With little to no face-to-face interaction clubs are finding it tough to stay afloat.
“I can tell you from my experience with several organizations, nobody wants to participate during COVID-19,” Hooley-Lickteig said. “Nobody wants another Zoom meeting, sitting there playing the same four games that you can play on Zoom.”
“Social media is a big way to try and get people involved,” McDonald said. “There’s not much you can do on campus to advocate for it so it’s really tough [for those organizations]. “Especially with local stuff it’s important [because] I think that if people saw how serious things are and things that we will be voting on like next year, they might want to get involved a little bit and like maybe sit in on one of those meetings.”
For students looking to get involved with any of the political clubs at the college, visit JCCC’s GetInvolved website to find meeting times, get contact advisors and register for membership.
By Alieu Jagne