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Government and public policy changes were some of the issues discussed at campus-hosted student summit.

 

Four students from the School of Social Sciences met on a panel for the UC Irvine Student Summit on Election 2012 in the Student Center on Monday afternoon. The discussion, which was moderated by journalist Alex Heffner, focused mainly on issues in the election that affect college students.

Political science professor Katherine Tate and School of Social Sciences Director of Student Activities, Teresa Neighbors, together with the sponsorship of the School of Social Sciences, ASUSI, AGS and the Center for Study of Democracy put on this event in an effort to stir political conversation on campus. The summit served as an arena for politically active students to convey a message about the current political system from their perspective as UCI students.

Moderator Alex Heffner, a journalist and civic educator, geared questions toward the panelists that addressed the current political climate at UCI with regards to the national election. Heffner is currently working with PBS on the program “Need To Know,” focusing on the young voting bloc. The moderator opened up the discussion by asking the panel how engaged students at UCI are with the election.

Second-year political science major, Sanaa Khan opened up the discussion claiming that the political mood on campus varied from apathetic to anxious — a sentiment that resonated with the other panelists’ answers. This notion of student apathy was further discussed throughout the summit as the moderator sought answers on the matter. Panelists suggested various reasoning for political behavior on campus ranging from the fact that students feel lost in an increasingly polarized political climate to the notion that students do not prioritize politics in their busy college life.

Throughout the summit, the panelists were also asked questions about specific issues in this presidential election, voicing student perspectives on important topics. The panel tackled issues ranging from the DREAM Act to Gov. Romney’s infamous “47 percent” comment. Heffner continuously asked hard-hitting follow-up questions, which challenged the panelists to be specific.

“I thought these students were incredibly articulate,” Heffner said. “They showed a very passionate connection to the idea of citizenship.”

The notion of engaged citizenship was a concept that echoed throughout the conversation. The general consensus among the speakers was that young people are taking for granted their rights as citizens, specifically their right to vote. Several students on the panel expressed concern for the fact that young people seem to be increasingly uneducated about what is going on in politics and explored the idea that if the youth does not care about politics, politicians will not care about them.

However, the panelists remained hopeful in their answers, regardless of how the political climate amongst their peers may be. Professor Tate commented on the positivity exuded by the panelists in a time when cynicism seems to be overwhelming regarding the election.

“These students still see some silver lining and opportunity in the political process,” Professor Tate said. “I think it was interesting to see UC Irvine’s distinctiveness here on this panel of students.”

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