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In politics, Eastern does not trust

When you are looking for a way to change the world at Eastern you’ll be hard pressed to find any political clubs or organizations on campus. It begs the question, do students at Eastern actually pay a grain of attention to politics?

“I think that at Eastern it’s easy to tune out politics,” said senior political science major Lairen Hawk.

Fellow senior and political science major Rebecca Kocsis agrees with Hawk that most students at Eastern would rather not concern themselves with politics. Kocsis, who spent time studying at the University of Colorado at Boulder, recalled the university canceling classes to encourage students to vote in the 2004 presidential elections. She noted how that same emphasis on politics is lacking at Eastern.

In the present core curriculum, Eastern does not require students to take a course in political science, but it does require a course focused around justice: INST 270. Dr. Bret Kincaid argues that one of the ways students can be involved in the political process is through addressing social injustices directly, thereby bringing attention to the government that something needs to be done.

Unfortunately, Kincaid has also observed that students who take INST 270 do not express much interest in the topics brought up about justice. “Justice is politics,” Kincaid said. “Politics is what the larger society does about injustices.”

Compared to generations of old – namely those of the 60s and 70s – there is a seeming lack of political activism in America today. This causes some to believe that young people are indifferent to the world around them. On the contrary, it was estimated that 3.3 million college students volunteered in 2005, a growing number according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Such numbers suggest a trend that students are paying more attention to what they can do individually.

Hawk and Kocsis agreed that a good amount of students become involved in volunteer activities at Eastern, maybe more than other colleges. Kocsis said that she sees certain trends at Eastern in fighting social injustices, Invisible Children as an example.

Dr. Kathy Lee, head of the political science department, believes the lack of interest in government can be attributed in part to a great deal of cynicism about politics. She believes that the phenomenon of Barack Obama may lead us into a new era of young people being interested in politics once again. In a poll of Eastern students, Obama was the leading vote-getter among presidential hopefuls for 2008, receiving 31 percent of the vote.

“He [Obama] is the John F. Kennedy of the new generation,” Lee said.

The energy, inspiration and trust that most students don’t find in politics are all reasons why Lee believes Obama is attractive to young people. In Lee’s words, “He represents a fresh start.”

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