Community / News / October 23, 2008

The student vote: Knox and the local elections

As Election Day nears, students registered to vote in Galesburg will soon be heading to the polls. However, opinions on the role students play in local politics differ.

When asked why Knox should be involved in local politics, political science professor Bob Seibert suggested students look to the past. He cited political divisions during the Vietnam War when student protests included the burning of U.S. flags. Local authorities, outraged at the action, threatened to come to campus and make arrests.

“We’ve had situations in the past in which local authorities have come onto campus when they thought it was necessary,” he said.

Seibert gave the election of police authorities as one element of local politics affecting students on campus.

“If you have a newly elected sheriff that suddenly takes a very aggressive attitude towards law enforcement, you can wind up under arrest or cited for violations of things you took for granted,” he said.

Although Seibert believes there is always a “certain level of mistrust or distance,” between the Knox campus and the city of Galesburg, he thinks such distance is at a “low level right now.”

“Right now town relations are pretty good,” said Seibert.

Voting locally is one way Seibert believes Knox students can continue to keep political relations amiable between the town and college.

“Differences between candidates can have real profound effects on student life,” he said. “If we don’t play our role in the community we might find ourselves at a disadvantage.”

Junior Ethan Wedel is “not especially” concerned with local politics, mentioning that he registered locally for convenience. Still, Wedel plans on reading up on local candidates before he visits the polls.

“Before I vote I’ll know who’s running,” said Wedel.

Sophomore Shirley Dehn thinks part of the reason students are not involved is due to the “isolation” of Knox in the community.

“Candidates don’t really stop here,” she said, “I think local politicians should come onto campus.”

Junior Maria Kazazis also feels that Knox is insulated from local politics.

“I don’t think that local candidates will impact us because we don’t live in Galesburg, we live in Knox,” she said.

President Taylor believes economic development is a major component of the local politics currently affecting the college. As a member of the Galesburg Regional Economic Development Association (GREDA) board of directors, Taylor hopes local governments will support GREDA financially.

“The better the city is, the better place it is for faculty and staff to live and work, and the better place it is for students,” said Taylor.

When it comes to student involvement Taylor believes “each student needs to answer that question for him or herself.”

“Some students may think that it’s important to vote in their hometown, other students may be interested in local politics,” he said.

Matt Baker

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