Carroll University students turned out to discuss “Making Change Through Civil Politics in Polarizing Times,” during a special event featuring Wisconsin State Assembly members Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha) and Rep. Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee).
A hybrid event for the campus community, it included live-streaming and in-person attendance Tuesday evening. The representatives answered questions from Carroll students about today’s political climate for approximately an hour. In total, around 300 students and Carroll community members attended the event either virtually or in person with physical distancing observed.
“We wanted to demonstrate to students that it is possible to have civil discussions about politics during this election year,” said Carroll President Cindy Gnadinger, who moderated the program. The presidents of the Carroll Democrats and the CU Republicans took turns in asking questions submitted by students.
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When asked about how each politician’s job had been impacted by COVID, they mentioned the lack of face-to-face, in-person communication with constituents, whether it was in the Capitol building or in their districts’ neighborhoods.
On how to become a well-informed voter, Haywood and Allen agreed students need to consume a variety of media from across the political spectrum. Haywood suggested the vice presidential debates as a good exercise in political awareness. “Spend the first half on one news outlet, then the second on another, and with the post-debate discussion, do the same thing. Each outlet will put out their own message.”
Allen said: “You are going to need to work doubly hard to discover the truth. You will need to read multiple sources on the same story. You’ll need to look at both the liberal and conservative blogs…you’ll need to read both foreign and domestic reports. You must become what you might consider excessively skeptical. You’ll have to ask about sources, and then investigate the sources.”
Among students who attended was Carroll senior Diego L. Pedroza. “It was nice to see how involved the students were, and the speakers encouraged the students to become more involved,” he said. “We need to get it right. Our generation is the one who will make a difference. You can feel a lot of folks want to vote out of the desire to have some agency to make things better. I think there will be a surprisingly massive turnout of young voters. They want their voices to be heard on the political spectrum.”
Additional questions revolved around the pandemic, including the eviction rate due to job loss after COVID-19. Pedroza said: “Students basically asked about the pandemic and the economy, such as: ‘What can you do?’ and ‘What are you planning to do?’ I think young people are well aware of the problems we’re navigating and trying to get enough information on the candidates to make an informed decision. They were asking the right questions.”
Pedroza said students seemed energized and engaged, and were “spread throughout pretty much the entire auditorium (due to COVID). It also was livestreamed, so a lot of people were streaming it from home.”