Section: Opinion

Pop the bubble: why voting in Gambier helps students engage with the community

Everyone should vote. Not voting implies a privilege of neutrality, and that these issues don’t affect someone because they are outside the problems facing the rest of the community. On that line, everyone should vote, but where one votes depends on their political situation: where they come from and who they support. I come from a place where my political party is the dominant one, so when I lived there, I never spent time engaging with my city’s local politics.

I registered to vote in Ohio, a nationally crucial swing state, to give my ballot new relevance in a less politically uniform place.

Register to vote here in Gambier to support your political party, because Ohio is a swing state and in national elections which elect congress members and presidents. And, if one registers to vote in Ohio for the midterm and general elections, then they should vote in local matters as well.

To say that we as students do not understand the issues in our local community because we have not lived here our whole lives is to admit ignorance that can be solved by learning about the candidates or initiatives. It also implies that the most valid opinions are those of older people, which is definitely not the case. If anything, youth should be more involved in promoting more relevant solutions to the problems of a world we are growing up in.

When Kenyon is described as a bubble, then it becomes more acceptable to act like it is a bubble—when, in reality, we are in Gambier and make up the majority population. We take up political space here whether we intend to or not; the question is whether or not we want to be intentional about it. Students participate in the economy by purchasing things in town, and hold jobs vital to running the Village. We are perceived to be separate because we cycle out of college every four years, but other students replace us. The decisions made on the local Village Council directly affect the students that are here, because the Village Council addresses issues from the mundane, such as the rules surrounding tree removal, to the more seriously impactful, such as contracting with the Sheriff’s department.

Many Kenyon students I talked with worry about imposing their opinions upon the people that live here year round, and that to get involved in their local politics is to assume a privilege that we know better because we go to an elite school and might come from wealthy backgrounds. This ignores the real impact that participating in local politics can have in reducing the barrier to education and providing better jobs. It’s not that I think my views are more important than anyone else’s, but that I feel confident in my belief that schools across the United States should be better-funded.

I voted here because I worried that a school levy might not pass (it did), that arts programs might lose funding and that there would not be enough resources given to improving the school facilities. This matters to me whether I’m in my home city or in Gambier. The quality of the school doesn’t affect every local either, if they are old or don’t have children. Voting is about what you hold to be important, and many local issues we vote on are national issues part of a larger debate.

We may be relatively new to Gambier as students, but that doesn’t mean we can’t educate ourselves on what troubles the community is dealing with.

When one goes to the Community Center to vote, they affirm what it means to be a part of this community. What are the issues that are being voted on? What information can I find on these candidates or issues? The act of voting itself becomes a way of breaking down the barrier between Kenyon and the community, and promotes interaction with the relevant topics in Ohio politics. Everyone has a stake in this community and our nation. Vote and join the conversation. 

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