Civic apathy widespread at UHa

If you didn’t watch the GOP debate last week, here’s a boiled-down version of what happened: everyone wants to repeal Obamacare, and Newt Gingrich thinks building a colony on the moon before the Chinese do is essential to the stability of our nation.

The problem that arose is not necessarily the fact that I think most of the remaining candidates are, for lack of a better term, idiots. It’s the fact that front-runners, such as Rick Santorum, can be insensitive enough to say pregnant rape victims should make the “best of a bad situation,” and hardly anyone on this campus would realize the atrocity and frequency of such statements.

It wasn’t until the day following the debate when speaking to an unregistered friend that the lackadaisical attitude that overwhelms this campus was brought to my attention. The unfortunate norm among Hartford students is a very apparent civic apathy.

While I will say I think the attitude this school emits is somewhat of a liberal one, the diverse backgrounds of students lend the Hartford community to the potential for a healthy political divide. But very rarely can somebody with enough interest to pay attention be found, and if they can be found, odds are they don’t care enough to share their thoughts.

When looking from the outside in at other government-oriented universities, this problem doesn’t seem to arise. UCONN, for example, although a much larger institution has at least three major student political groups including the College Democrats, the College Republicans as well as an Alternative Political Parties group, all of which actively work to educate and attract students.

At University of Hartford, the Hartford College Democrats were once a small organization, but if they are still active their presence surely isn’t felt.

In a study conducted by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), college students were divided into six categories of political activity. Among those, 14 percent were found to be registered to vote, but not actively participate, while 23 percent were found to be “civically alienated,” meaning they were hardly engaged at all. But in this average of college students across the country, it’s the minority that aren’t involved whatsoever.

It presents the question as to whether the lack of political clubs and groups on this campus lowers engagement in politics, or whether the lack of interest is what results in such few groups.

Despite the “what came first” question, the absence of political discussion exists because of the contagious nature of apathy. In another study conducted by CIRCLE, it was found that youth are more apt to vote if they’re influenced by friends and family. If nobody who has the ability to politically influence others does, the indifference here can only grow.

Upon asking my friend why he wasn’t registered to vote (and really, it’s less effort that signing up for a Facebook account), he said, “I just don’t feel like I know enough to make an educated decision.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard that sentiment among twenty-somethings, though the reality is, being uneducated is no excuse to not care, it’s not caring that results in ignorance.

Educating yourself takes nothing more than paying attention to the news a bit more closely. And it’s important to do, because failing to vote out of lethargy is only going to result in an excess of ignorant votes.

And frankly, I’d rather not spend my first post-college years struggling in a failing economy because the money was spent on frequent flyer miles to space.

But ridiculous notions like that run the risk of becoming a reality if apathy lets ignorance get the best of the country.
Then again, maybe there’s more employment opportunities on the moon.