Speakers offer new insight on youth issues
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 01:08
College students and young adults were put at the forefront of one Republican National Convention (RNC) event yesterday afternoon, which focused on issues such as the economy, education and young peoples’ role in the political process.
One of the many subjects raised at this event, Conversations with the Next Generation, was why college students are disinterested in voting and how this affects them politically.
Matt Segal, a political activist and the president of Our Time, a nonprofit of young adults who work for voter and economic causes, said legislators are not as concerned about college students because they vote infrequently.
“A lot of legislators figure there are the fewest amount of political consequences when they defund higher education,” he said. “Because they say ‘young people don’t vote,’ and ‘I know if I take money out of Medicare or … Social Security or … a program in which a constituency group of frequent voters depends on, I’ll face major consequences.”
USF Tampa lost $36.9 million, or 21 percent of its base budget, in state funding this year. The USF System as a whole lost $46 million, and the Florida State University System (SUS) lost $300 million of its budget.
Segal said there are two major reasons why college students rarely vote. Young adults of this generation have lost faith in the legislative system because of the culture of high-speed communication and personal service, which seems to be at odds with that system.
“So people do not understand why it takes months and months and years and years to pass legislation,” Segal said. “There’s all this fighting and hypertension, and meanwhile they just want to see instant results.”
Segal said that restrictive new voting laws, such as voter ID restrictions in Pennsylvania, also
discourage young adults from voting.
Yet he also said that since 2000, there have been only eight instances of voter fraud nationally, and many of these occurred accidentally by former felons who didn’t know they lost their right to vote.
USF student body President Brian Goff was another featured speaker at the RNC event, and he said he agreed with Segal’s stance on voting laws. He also spoke about how he thought education should be improved.
Goff stressed the importance of parental guidance and counseling on career fields and majors for students starting college, so they wouldn’t have to change their majors several times and prolong their education. He also favored majors with one clear and specific course rather than an interdisciplinary set of subjects leading to a degree.
“Interdisciplinary degrees are great in theory, I think,” Goff said. “That’s kind of a wide array. But we need to get down to degrees that are more specific and more focused on the area they’re going to be going into.”
Goff and Segal were two of about 11 speakers at the two-hour event, which was held at the Improv Comedy Theater in Ybor City. Other issues that speakers touched on included the role of education and how it might be different if former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney became president, as well as jobs and financial security for young Americans.
Most of the audience members were young adults from universities around the country and news, nonprofit and activist organizations.
Kristin Bradstreet, a senior majoring in political science and chair of the USF College Republicans, said she hadn’t yet heard a lot concerning the issue of education.
“This is the first time I got a whole spillfull of it — first time this election, first time this week,” she said. “All I’ve been hearing is the economy, and that’s what I think the No. 1 issue is.”