By Sarah Carlson, Staff Writer
When Amy Perez looks at ACU, she sees a lack of political conviction and diversity among students.
Last semester Perez, freshman education major from Houston, took action and helped form the campus chapter of the College Democrats, of which she is now president.
“We want to provide students with an alternative,” Perez said. “Many people think they are one party because of what their parents are, and we want to give them a choice.”
Several students are working to involve more students in politics.
The College Democrats, along with the College Republicans and the Administrative Relations committee of the Students’ Association, conducted a Chapel forum March 2 to discuss politics.
The forum consisted of Democratic and Republican faculty members and students answering questions from a moderator and the audience.
Perez said the forum was intended to help students form their own opinions and become more educated about political issues.
Jason Knight, sophomore political science major and chairman of the College Republicans, said he thought the forum went well and is glad the College Democrats are becoming stronger.
“It’s good that the Democrats showed so strong,” Knight said. “Our goal is to create tension and controversy on campus, and you can’t have one group represented without another group to counter it.”
Dr. Mel Hailey, chair of the Political Science Department, said traditionally ACU has not been an activist campus and is heavily Republican.
“Greater diversity on campus generates greater enthusiasm and passion for becoming involved in politics,” Hailey said.
Hailey has been a professor at ACU since 1974 and said he has not noticed any major changes in the political involvement of students during his time here.
“I think there is a potential for students to become more politically involved at this moment than any time I can remember since the Vietnam War because of social issues,” Hailey said. “I think the culture wars are back.”
Melanie Booker, sophomore political science major from Sugar Land and member of the College Republicans, said compared to other universities, there is a serious lack of political tension on campus.
Booker said she does not think politics are a priority for most college students and sees this as a large problem.
“Most students think the policies don’t affect them when actually legislation is passed and policies are made every day at the Capitol that directly affects their lives,” Booker said.
Justin Scott, sophomore political science major from Whitehouse, said politics are not discussed enough on campus, especially concerning both parties.
“Some people assume everyone thinks the same way, and because of that, we fail to discuss pertinent issues,” Scott said.
Amy Leavitt, freshman political science major from Alsea, Ore., and chief of staff for College Democrats, said it is important to look at the views and issues a party stands for and not the title they have.
She added that whether people are considered a Republican or Democrat depends partly on where they live.
“Up in Oregon, I was more of a moderate-conservative,” Leavitt said. “Down here I am definitely a Democrat.”
Earlier in the semester, Booker and other members of SA became notarized so they would be authorized to register students to vote to help increase political awareness.
“We have the privilege, the freedom and the right to vote, and we should exercise it,” Booker said. “If all the college students from Texas turned out to vote, we could swing the vote.”
Knight said citizens should only vote when they know what they are voting for. He said students should try to become more informed and vote the way they feel.
“The greatest power you have is your vote,” Knight said. “That is what democracy is all about.”
Scott said students should vote because they live in the United States, and people have died throughout the years to give them that opportunity.
“We have the democratic right to abstain,” he said, “but if you are going to complain about current government operations, you should use your right to influence the outcome of the elections.”
Christians and politics
Why and how Christians should be involved in politics was a key topic at the forum.
Booker said she feels it is made clear in the Bible that Christians are to be the salt and light of the earth and have a lot of power to influence the nation and world.
“Spiritual battles occur on every front, including politics,” Booker said. “We are called to take care of the less fortunate and elect strong and morally convicted leaders.”
Scott said he has never seen a passage in the Bible where there is a biblical basis for Christians to stay out of politics.
“I think that one of the many ways that we can influence the world is through the election of leaders who acknowledge God’s power and guidance in their lives,” Scott said.
Scott added that it is also important for Christians to vote based on policies and not just religion.
“Unfortunately, most Christians choose their political party based on their moral beliefs and not because of the party’s economic or administrative platform,” Scott said.
Knight said the times have changed from when Christians such as David Lipscomb called other Christians to stay out of politics completely.
He said Christians should have a major role in politics, and church should not be completely separated from state.
“It’s not so much that the church should be our government but that Christian values should be the key,” Knight said.
Perez said Christians have a responsibility to keep Christianity in politics no matter what party they belong to.
“I think it’s absolutely wrong” for Christians to stay out of politics, Perez said.
Perez said at the forum Christians should not discount a party based on one or two issues they do not agree with.
She also said despite what most people think all Democrats stand for, she is against abortion and homosexual marriage.
“Even though I am a Democrat,” Perez said, “I will not compromise my beliefs for things that are not of God.”