Students and Faculty Talk Politics at Informal Discussion Circle

by MADYLYN JOHNSON, Asst. A&E Editor

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, Manhattan College held their first official informal discussion of political events in Miguel 209. Both students and professors were invited to sit down, eat their lunches, and share their thoughts and opinions on the latest political, news stories that have made recent headlines in the media.

The discussion was led by the chair of the political science department, Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. Other professors that teach political science courses at Manhattan College were also in attendance and encouraged students to talk about what political news s  tories interested them most.

Junior Mary Nevin, who is a political science major, brought up the first topic which was Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order to build a border between the U.S. and Mexico. Students were asked first by professors of the political science department about what they thought about Trump’s vital decision and what Congress could possibly do to negotiate a deal with the Trump administration.

Kaylyn Atkins, a junior double majoring in political science and international studies, weighed in on how she is confused about how the wall will be supported financially.

“I didn’t really think he was going to do it after the shutdown,” she said, noting Trump’s advocacy for the wall. “I know there was a New York Times article that came out a day or two ago saying that the House was going to try to find funding from somewhere else. But I was wondering where they are going to get all this funding from.”

Margaret Groarke, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, added to the conversation by explaining how Congress plays a role in Trump’s demand for the border.

“Congress can vote to override it. They would need the President to sign that piece of legislation so their chances of doing it that way are somewhat limited. A lot of states have sued, saying this is inappropriate,” she said.

Chasek added a psychological perspective on the political matter by saying, “Trump thrives on the battle, he thrives on rallies, he thrives on ‘lock her up, lock her up’ you know that sort of stuff. He always needs an enemy. While he had complete control of Congress, it would have been easy, there would have been no enemy he wouldn’t get no, he wouldn’t get that adrenaline rush of calling the Democrats the enemy and national security.”

One student rhetorically asked what does Trump have once he has the wall, mentioning that the President could possibly put the difficulty of building the border into good use for his next presidential campaign.

Professor Jonathan Keller said, “In the end, he’s not going to have the money anytime soon if he wins. In the long run, it’s not like a winning strategy because the other half of the party doesn’t like it, the independents really don’t like it, they’re passionately against it so I don’t get it really.”

  The lineup of Democrats who will line up for the 2020 Presidential Election was also discussed among students and teachers in which Chasek asked how everyone felt about Bernie Sanders running again. A student addressed a concern about Sanders’ age, saying he believes he’s too old to run. Another student commented on how the younger generation may not be as attracted to Sanders anymore as well as how the excitement of Elizabeth’s Warren decision to run has declined as the number of Democrats running becomes a bigger pool.

Atkins, a New Jersey native, talked about how she feels about New Jersey Senator Cory Booker running, in addition to her thoughts about Kamala Harris and how she would like to be more educated on the Democratic candidates.

“I know a lot about Cory Booker, so when he announced he was running, I was excited because he’s from Jersey,” Atkins said. “I was excited when Kamala Harris announced it but then I was listening to some of her interviews and about the whole prison reform thing and her record of locking up men in color in California, I just wanted to know more about it because I don’t know enough about her so I don’t want to go and say ‘I support her’ without knowing a whole lot about her.”

Views were also shared about Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, possibly running for 2020.

“He can really damage the Democratic party,” Keller said. “If they choose someone on the far left, it will open up this big space.”

Groarke did not back down when downgrading the current CEO of Starbucks and said,  “When you run as an independent, like since you don’t have to be in the primaries, you don’t have those reality checks when you’re in the primary, you come in fifth with two percent of the vote and you wake up the next morning and you’re like ‘you know what maybe I shouldn’t do this’.’ We have to figure out how we’re going to deal with those moments with Howard Schultz because he needs to go.”

  The professors spoke about students in Australia and Europe being very politically active with strikes on climate change, saying even in Britain upper middle and elementary school students organize these types of protests. They took this news as an opportunity to ask students if this type of activity will soon take place in the U.S. and if it’s a global issue college students think about.

One student brought up the climate change lawsuit young advocates lost against the state of Washington and another talked about how younger generations have recently expressed concern about the last polar vortex through social media.

Nevin compared the concern students have about environmental problems at the East coast to those that live in the Midwest.

“I’m from Wisconsin and like all my friends go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison which has like a very strong liberal tradition,” she said. “It’s something that is a huge part of the culture at Madison but I really haven’t heard, it’s totally different from when I go back home and it’s something that they’re constantly talking about and they know all these terms and that’s just not something I found that’s part of the culture here. One in school I don’t hear it talked about that much but I can definitely see something like that happening in Madison, like a walkout or protest.”    

  Nevin thought of the idea to welcome all MC faculty and students to have informal political discussions in a non-classroom environment. She hopes it can give more clarity to students and social media users who are interested and engage in conversations about current events.

“A lot of my friends, if they’re like in business or whatever they don’t talk about politics which is fascinating to me just because we’re at such a weird time, and I feel like people our age are, with social media, kind of excited about current events.  But there have been a few things that have caught some traction like gun violence and Me Too and stuff like that, but I would like to have people be more aware and just give people a chance to learn and talk about it,” she said.

Chasek added to Nevin’s comment by explaining why it is important that these discussions happen.

“Another interesting thing of conversation, having a discussion on Me Too, has it gone too far or has it not gone far enough?” she asked. “There’s so much going on and it’s hard to grasp but even people that have spent their whole lives reading this stuff and talking about it, it’s like, ‘Oh my god, what does this all mean’?