OPINION | Why political organizations matter on campus

Taylor Spill, Contributing Columnist

(Will Embree)

Politics, once seen as a taboo conversation topic, now has a large impact on our lives, especially at Tulane University. These discussions regarding politics most likely contributed to a record number of college students voting in the 2020 presidential elections. 

There are a variety of organizations on Tulane’s campus through which students can focus on issues they are passionate about while exploring and developing their own beliefs. Political engagement among college students is extremely important, and these organizations are a great way to help students get started in political movements.

Many political organizations on campus function to help Tulane students become politically active within their communities. 

There are issue-oriented organizations such as Students Demand Action, where students are able to discuss firearm safety and relevant issues surrounding it. Or, students can join broader organizations, such as Tulane College Democrats, which can be a good way to get started in political party engagement.

These organizations also focus on reaching out to the general student body. There are a variety of ways that organizations are able to keep Tulane students engaged, even those who may not be involved in political discourse.

For example, sophomore Amelia Nugentis, the director of civic engagement for Undergraduate Student Government, helped serve the Tulane community during elections.

Nugent said, “And then another thing we’ve been doing, like I said before, is the voter registration drives. We’re out on McAlister with forms registering people to vote in Louisiana, which has been really great. We’ve gotten a lot of people registered.” 

Tabling on McAlister Way, a high-traffic walkway, can help student organizations gain traction. Organizations must register events through WaveSync, and the Lavin-Bernick Center for Student Life must approve them. 

One tabling event that grabbed the attention of Tulane students last week was the Turning Point USA “Prove Me Wrong” booth.

Tulane is often regarded as a “liberal bubble” within a red state. Most people on campus tend to have more liberal beliefs, so seeing a table for Turning Point, a conservative nationwide student organization, was quite shocking to some. 

The topics up for debate, posed by Turning Point, were “Censorship always precedes socialism” on one day and “Food, shelter, and clean water aren’t ‘rights’” the other day.

When asked what she wanted to get out of this particular booth, president of Tulane’s of Turning Point chapter Alexandra Arcamone said, “I definitely think that making even the presence on campus was part of our goal because we want other students who are conservative or just want to join the club to know that we are on campus, and we had people fighting through the crowd to come to us so I was, I was still glad that we did the event.”

Even though many students may have seen this event to be controversial, it is a relevant example of organizations reaching out to students to increase political engagement on campus. “Prove Me Wrong” was the center of attention on McAlister and ultimately helped conversations about political beliefs get started. 

Some student groups reacted against Turning Point’s presence on campus, especially by counterprotesting. Students were seen surrounding the booth in a video shot by an event coordinator, Driena Sixto, which was retweeted by the Turning Point USA Twitter account. Many held signs with statements against what was insinuated by the “Prove Me Wrong” conversation topics, especially regarding human rights. 

Freshman Emma Dong was one of the counter protestors involved and recalls her experience and what motivated others like her to come out to the booth. 

She said, “We can make this serious. We can make it real because what they want essentially is attention and they want kids to engage for more social media like clout. So we were here thinking what’s the best way to not, not do this, literally is to not engage, but how do we make others engaged? So what we did was we made signs … This was such a done like grassroots, done in a group chat thing.”

Although tensions were very high, this particular event offered an outlet for students to participate in political discourse. Whether students felt inclined towards involvement in Turning Point from their tabling, or they felt strongly against their values, the event led to a variety of discussion surrounding one’s own political views.

Overall, political organizations on campus are effective in helping students become involved in political discourse. Whether it be specific policy-based organizations or party-based, students are able to involve themselves in the world outside of Tulane, and events open to the student body can be a starting point, even if they are events seen as controversial to most of the student body.

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