/Academic voices and politics

Academic voices and politics

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Pradyot Sharma

Contributor

The 2016 election cycle has led millions of people around this country to evaluate the democratic powers that they possess. Young Americans, especially first-time voters, have been thrown straight out to the deep end as their votes could determine the road that this country takes.

A lot is at stake that could lead to major changes in the United States, and the youths are realizing more about the value of their vote every single day. We face issues ranging from domestic policy regarding health care, immigration, Supreme Court nominations and social rights to global crises.

Individuals across the nation have different perspectives and ideas about these issues. The beauty of this system is that they can express their unique beliefs through their votes.

For most seasoned voters, listening to different opinions and evaluating them is not that tough of a job.  For first-time voters, a few words or institutional actions could go a long way in influencing their decisions.

Last month at Liberty University, one such action drew national attention as Jerry Falwell Jr.’s reaffirmation of his endorsement of Donald Trump led many students and organizations to protest.

Falwell’s standing by Trump on an individual level was not the problem. Due to his position as the president and his use of the university platform to promote Trump, his association with the candidate led people to associate Liberty University with Trump, which was not an accurate description. Not all Liberty students were supporting him.

When such associations are promoted, not only is an entire institution inaccurately associated with a candidate, but this association can also influence the decisions of voters. This makes it difficult for individuals to freely express their own wishes, which hampers the idea behind democracy.

Educational institutions today have as much power as religious organizations in influencing students, if not more. What institutional leaders say can make a huge impact on a student’s thoughts; but they need to ensure that they are not influencing someone’s ability to decide on his own regarding issues at hand.

Educators have a responsibility not only to pass along knowledge to the individuals shaping tomorrow, but also to ensure that the sanctity of individual perception is maintained.

Do not get me wrong. I do not say these people do not have a right to express their opinions over fear that they might affect someone; but they should not use platforms that are meant to better equip people to make decisions on their own to hand out the decision itself.