With November around the corner and the 2014 midterm elections on the horizon, Keene State College students are stepping up, getting involved and making their voices heard.

The upcoming election, is to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 4, is becoming heated as the date approaches, while Jeanne Shaheen of the Democratic Party and Scott Brown of the Republican Party are running against each other for senator.

KSC students across campus each have their own reasons for speaking out as the election gets closer. Katie Barnaby would have been a senior at KSC this fall semester, but has decided to take some time off.

“I can’t afford to go to college this semester,” Barnaby explained, “So I was looking for an internship—something to keep my skills sharp while I wasn’t in school.”

As a solution, Barnaby decided to intern for the New Hampshire Democratic Party and said she got involved thanks to an on-campus group called KSC Democrats.

“My friend [New Hampshire Democratic Party Campus Organizer] Kay Montplaisir is really passionate about the group. She’s the reason I got involved,” Barnaby said.

The KSC Democrats group meets at  7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in the Media Arts Center in room 155, but members of the group are active daily.

“Kay made me realize the importance of the election. It affects people like me,” Barnaby said, “I can’t afford to go to college, but I have the ability to change that.”

Barnaby said she is hopeful for the upcoming election and the possibilities that it offers.

“Something needs to change,” Barnaby said, “I want everyone to have the opportunity to go to college without having to pay such ridiculous costs.”

Tim Smith / Equinox Staff

Tim Smith / Equinox Staff

Besides the high cost of education, students have other reasons for being involved and passionate about politics.

Elizabeth Arnell was a freshman at KSC in 2012 during the Obama campaign and said she decided to get herself involved then.

“I was new on campus, just like all the other freshmen, and I walked by the campaign table in the student center early in the year. My roommate and I decided to volunteer,” Arnell said.

Not sure if she would continue after the Obama campaign was over, Arnell said she saw an opportunity for a fellowship and thought it would be beneficial.

“I did it in 2012, so I already knew a few things about it,” Arnell explained, “The candidates who I’m supporting all care about what they’re running for. They care about college students.”

Arnell was adamant about getting students involved in voting.

“We have a table in the student center almost every day and we do something called ‘dorm storming,’ which is where we’re going around the dorms, knocking on doors and asking people if they’re voting. We’re also asking them to sign a pledge to vote card. It doesn’t say that they’re going to vote for any particular candidate, just that you’re going to get your vote out there,” Arnell said.

Arnell noted that students can register to vote on the day of the elections.

“There will be shuttles taking students to and from the polls,” she added.

Arnell continued, “I just think it’s important for everyone to vote,” she said, “I know that I’m a member of KSC Dems, so it’s important to me that these candidates win, but everyone needs to know who the candidates are and what they’re representing. It’s our future now.” Cassie Stepanek, a member of the KSC Republicans group on campus, has different political views but similar feelings towards the importance of politics in students’ lives, as well as on campus.

“I initially got involved because a friend of mine, Allie Bedell, had started the KSC Republicans and invited me to join,” Stepanek said of the Republican group on campus.

Stepanek, who identifies herself as an Independent, said that she shared some views with the Republican Party so she began attending the meetings.

“The Millennial generation, which includes KSC students, should be involved in politics because it directly impacts their lives,” Stepanek expressed. “I know how busy being a student can get, but it is important to make sure that our voices are heard and our opinions are represented by our elected officials.”

When asked about current political issues that affect students directly, Stepanek mentioned health care policies, student loans and the increasing national debt to be among the many.

“I think many students feel insulated from these types of issues,” Stepanek added, “but we are going to be feeling the consequences of the decisions made today for years to come.” Stepanek also mentioned how the KSC Republicans are targeting students to get them involved on campus. “The Cheshire County Republican Committee has been working hard to spread awareness of the upcoming elections in the Keene area and frequently hold voter call nights to talk to citizens about voting on November Fourth,” Stepanek stated, “They also hold door-knocking events on the weekends to bring local candidates face to face with voters.” Stepanek continued, “The group has been working to help support their efforts. We’ll have a table at Pumpkin Lobotomy on October seventeenth and we hope that anyone who is interested in getting involved will come talk to us.”

Like KSC Democrats, the KSC Republican group is composed of students who are passionate about their respective views and like to advocate for their beliefs.

The KSC Republicans group meets on Mondays at 5 p.m. in room 308 in the Student Center.

“I think it’s important for college-aged students to be aware so that they can make informed decisions when voting,” Mandy Black, a KSC alumnus from the Class of 2010, said. Black said she continues to follow up on politics where she lives in Connecticut. “We need to keep in mind that the votes we cast, or don’t cast, will impact our futures in one way or another,” Black said.

Black recalled the 2008 presidential elections in her days as a KSC student. “I wasn’t nearly as informed as I am now, but I do remember how significant and monumental the debate was, with Obama running. Everyone had an opinion that they wanted to share,” Black said.

Black stressed the importance of being an active voice in her community.

“The outcome of the elections affects everyone, even if you’re not seeing immediate results,” Black said, “Every voice counts and if you don’t stand up for what you want, no one will do it for you.”

Black said she is passionate about her opinions and plans on voting in the upcoming elections in Connecticut, where she is a registered voter.

Like Black, others are getting prepared for the impending elections.

Matt Derrickson, a political science major and a New Hampshire native, is a senior at KSC this year. Derrickson said he’s been interested in politics since he was in high school.

“I found out that I was pretty passionate about politics and that I get pretty fired up about the issues a lot,” Derrickson said, “It’s been a passion of mine for a long time and it followed me to Keene.”

When asked what he thinks are important topics in today’s political debates, Derrickson was able to rattle off a few, such as campaign finance, global warming, abortion and the idea of health care being a right versus being a privilege. “I find competing viewpoints very interesting,” Derrickson noted, “I love the comparative aspect of politics.” Derrickson stated that he believes in the importance of getting students to vote, but mentioned that it was more of a numbers game than anything else.

“I think that voting counts for our age group, but for a specific reason. Not necessarily because our votes are going to make the difference, but it does matter in the sense that if enough young people vote, it forces politicians to notice and listen to the group more, because they understand that we’re active and that we vote,” Derrickson said, “When those numbers add up, it’s a critical mass thing. When there’s big numbers of a specific group voting, politics are forced to listen to them. I’m not sure what the numbers are, but college voter turnout is pretty abysmal. It’s important, because it lets the system know that you’re there. And that’s the first step in terms of being participatory, is you have to be there first, and once you’re there you can try and put your foot down a little bit on an issue.”

As far as being aware, Derrickson said he believes it to be a “civic duty.”

“I just think it’s important to have somewhat of a sense of what’s going on the world around you, and be able to form an educated opinion,” Derrickson said, “If you’re aware of what’s going on, you can do something about it.”

Like Derrickson, Courtney Perron, who is also senior at KSC, said that being a political advocate was a passionate subject for her. Along with Arnell and Barnaby, Perron is an active member of KSC Democrats.

Perron said she thinks it’s especially important for college students to start exploring and forming their own views.

“I think that especially college students, just coming of the voting age, don’t realize quite how important it is. For the most part, they just got out of their household, where maybe they didn’t really have an opinion that they could voice. But we’re legal adults now. You can have your own opinion. You do have a voice, and it does matter,” Perron said. Being an advocate for her political party, Perron admitted to being very verbal with her beliefs.

“I’m very open about my political views, but I try not to push them onto other people,” Perron stated, “I’m just trying to stress the importance of why it’s not only good to vote, but to be an educated voter.”

Perron went on to explain the importance of developing an interest in politics early on.

“It’s important for students to get involved and know about politics because we’re the younger generation. At some point, it’s going to be us running the government, because that’s just how life goes. If you don’t get interested now, I feel like it’s harder to get interested in it later in life because it becomes more of a habit after a certain point,” Perron explained, “It’s like, why care later if you can care now?”

“My one hope,” Perron concluded, “Is that students start to take themselves seriously and realize how influential they can be once they apply themselves.”


Jill Giambruno can be contacted at jgiambruno@keene-equinox.com

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