Since the presidential election on Tuesday, I’ve been hearing a resounding chorus across campus of the same sentiment: “I am so glad that the election is over.”
Most people have similar reasons for this gratitude, but they all seem to stem from over-exposure to rude, uneducated, and even hate-filled postings on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. I have heard friends and strangers alike bemoan this sad phenomenon, and even The Greyhound has tackled the touchy topic of the political atmosphere on Facebook.
Here’s the interesting (and redeeming) part of all this though, and the reason why this is even worth writing about. Though I have seen countless postings on Facebook about politics, candidates, and the election that have caused me to log off in disgust, I am happy (and slightly surprised) to say that very few of the postings come from my friends at Loyola. From what I’ve seen, these posts are largely made by people I know from home or those I grew up with (which is still a sad commentary on the youthful electorate today), but it gives me faith in my fellow Greyhounds that most of us have more sense than that.
What I have seen around campus and in the social media atmosphere during the election season is a good amount of support for different candidates and policies, and most importantly, a whole lot of respect. Even after President Obama was reelected on Tuesday night, while there were the obligatory statuses from Romney supporters about moving to Canada that caused me to roll my eyes, there were also those that read: “I love our country and I support the president in hopefully moving us in the right direction these next four years” and “Congratulations, Mr. President, make good use of these next four years.”
I also enjoyed seeing the statuses of many Loyola students, conservative, liberal, and in between, educatedly describing why they voted the way they did, or simply expressing gratitude to have been able to participate in democracy for the first time in their lives.
What do I credit with all of this? Well I certainly don’t think it’s all a coincidence. I truly believe that the “Loyola Votes” initiative, sponsored by SGA, CCSJ, and Green & Grey Society, and “Rock the Vote” have made the political atmosphere on campus respectful and open-minded, encouraging listening and discussion, rather than closed-mindedness and argument.
Throughout the election season, various groups across campus have hosted student panels on hot election issues, guest lectures, and debate-watching gatherings, including one with an introduction by university president Father Linnane on respectful political discourse.
SGA, through the “Loyola Votes” initiative and “Rock the Vote,” worked for months registering students to vote and to send for their absentee ballots, while educating non-partisanly on the issues. And Loyola’s “Election Examen” encouraged students to “be civil, be informed, be inclusive” when discussing politics on campus, even providing resources for students to learn and discern before voting in November.
It’s possible that I’m reading too much into into what I believe to be a stand-out campus as far as respectful political discourse goes, only seeing the good and not the bad, but somehow, I don’t think so. I admit the bad with the good, but still believe that Loyola’s efforts, as a Jesuit institution, to ensure that its students are informed and politically active this November have paid off.
I know that on Halloween, as I stood in line for early voting in Baltimore City, I was brimming with excitement prior to exercising the right to vote that I have been anxiously awaiting for years. Completed sample ballot in hand, the long line didn’t phase me, as I knew that this was a day I would remember for the rest of my life, and that many of my fellow Greyhounds felt the same way.