MacVotes

By Anna Joranger

From the brochures mailed out in mass for potential students, to the school website, the ideas of “social consciousness” and “political activism” abound at Macalester, just like the squirrels.
Various political organizations on campus try to ensure that students know what’s going on through use of fliers, e-mails, and huge chalk notices. Groups like the MacDems even host such well-known speakers as Al Franken.
With the Nov. 7 mid-term elections fast approaching, politics are more prevalent than ever.

“There shouldn’t be any way for students not to know that Nov. 7 is election day,” said Jacob Levy-Pollans ’09, co-president of the Macalester Democrats along with Molly Griffard, ’09.

Most students would probably agree with him. Whether students are actually living up to their political reputation by being politically active, however, is less clear.

While it is true that most students are somewhat politically conscious, and while many do plan to vote either at Macalester or at home via absentee ballot, opinions differ on whether Macalester students are unusually proactive about their political views or are simply unusually willing to discuss those views.

“I was surprised—I have an unnamed friend who is a political science major who didn’t vote last time,” said Ellie Rogers ’09. “I guess there’s a key group of really unusually active people…at the same time, I keep trying to imagine having political conversations after I graduate, and it will be different because you can make assumptions about people’s political beliefs here.”

Those assumptions are often based on the premise that Macalester students are liberal by default, one which frustrates Rogers because “there aren’t many alternate viewpoints.”

Many students point out the difference between having strong liberal convictions and being politically active. While many take full advantage of the free copies of the New York Times offered in the Campus Center by at least glancing at the front page over breakfast, they do not necessarily act on their knowledge.

“I would describe Macalester more as a politically aware school, than as a politically involved school,” Colin Hottman ‘09 said. Hottman is active in MacGreens. The MacGreens have recently taken on political challenges such as promoting Jesse Mortenson ’05s campaign for the Minnesota District 64A House seat. “I do think Macalester is more politically aware than other colleges,” Hottman said. “However, I think that Macalester is about as politically active as the average college campus, with most students willing to discuss political issues passionately and intelligently in class but not willing to organize outside of class.”

An obvious example of this is the absentee ballot concept. Sometimes it just seems like too much hassle—especially because, while some states use a process as simple as sending an online request, others, as Levy-Pollans put it, require you to “send them a request which they send back to you…for you to send back to them for them to send the ballot back to you.”

In the meantime, students will go on fitting—or not fitting—politics into their daily lives with varying degrees of seriousness. As Andrew Mirzayi ’10 said, if actually reading a free copy of the New York Times seems like too much work, such renowned sources as ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘The Colbert Report’ are always great.”