On October 26, Nazareth College hosted its first-ever political debate on campus – and it was completely organized by students. Dr. Timothy Kneeland's "Campaigns, Voters and Elections" political science class inspired the students to organize the 29th Congressional District debate between Tom Reed (R) and Matthew Zeller (D). "You have to get involved. You cannot just stand by and not do anything," says Benjamin Pate '12 of the class' decision to host a debate. "If you want to see change you have to get out there and play an active part in it."
The students reached out to WXXI Public Broadcasting (an NPR affiliate) and partnered with the radio station to broadcast the debate live and stream it on the web. The debate was part of Voice of the Voter, a collaboration with other local radio/television stations and newspapers, to engage citizens in the political process.
In addition to arranging the debate, the students held a voter registration drive. "Time and again, the best way to get people out to vote tends to be when there is someone who actually comes to you and talks to you in person," says Dr. Kneeland. "If you connect with a person one-on-one, if you talk to them and tell them the importance of the election, they are more likely to come out and vote."
"We have this whole rich history in American politics where people have been fighting for the right to vote. People like Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglas...I think students should remember that..." adds history major Iaonnis (John) Dedes '12.
Illya Slavko, an exchange student from Russia, worked with his classmates and learned first-hand about America's voting process. "The class is great because it really helps me to understand American culture," says Slavko. "I think that if you are registered to vote it's your duty to vote and not be silent."
"We have a very civic minded student body at Nazareth College," says Dr. Kneeland. "The students are always involved in different causes. I think it's important to learn that the political process could shape a lot of other areas in their lives..."