About a year ago, three friends and I attended a political debate in Reisinger. No, it wasn’t about the presidential election -- rather, it was part of the race for a seat in the New York State Senate, between Democratic incumbent George Latimer and Republican challenger Julie Killian. While this wasn’t for a national race, the debate covered issues that affect the whole nation, not just New York State, such as climate change and policing. The debate itself allowed for connection between the community and the candidates -- both candidates took audience questions, and my friends and I even managed to approach Killian after the debate and express our disagreement with some of the points she had made.
Surely, an event of this nature on campus was a great resource for students. It provided an accessible venue for SLC students to learn about a competitive race happening in the surrounding area’s political district, an opportunity for students to meet and learn about the candidates, and get a sense of what kinds of issues with which the Yonkers and Bronxville communities were concerned. Since SLC is such a politically aware school, students must have packed Reisinger that night, right?
Besides the three friends with whom I attended the debate, I did not personally see any other SLC students in the crowd that night. To my knowledge (and I have gone back and checked), this event was only advertised to SLC students via Facebook. The event page lists only three students (myself being one) marked as “went”, and only ten marked as “interested”. This debate, which drew many non-SLC community members, was not listed on GryphonLink or advertised via email. The event, to my understanding, was only advertised by SLC Democrats, an organization which no longer exists, and not at all promoted by the school’s administration.
This is my second year at SLC and my thirteenth year as a resident of Westchester County, and so far, the participation I have seen from the SLC community in Westchester County politics has been sparse. Every now and then, there are events hosted by individual students, generally advertised only via social media. While there are many student organizations dedicated to specific political issues, there are no current student organizations affiliated with any political party or specifically dedicated to local Yonkers/Westchester politics that are patently active on campus.
The school itself has made minimal efforts in this area. Student Affairs and Public Safety ran shuttles to the polls for students last year, and will be doing so again this year. However, has the administration done anything further this year to get students engaged in Westchester politics? Last semester, for example, the school hosted a Yonkers Panel where students could interact with local officials. If we can have an event like that in an election-free semester, why can’t we have one in a semester WITH an election?
SLC created no obvious advertisement for last year’s state senate debate, held on campus. On Monday, October. 23rd, there was a debate for Westchester County Legislature and Yonkers City Council President also held on campus in Reisinger. No email for this on-campus political event was sent out, nor was it posted to Corq. My only knowledge of this event came from a Westchester politics Facebook group that is not affiliated with SLC.
Moreover, even though SLC is providing vans to the polls, they have not released any clear and accessible information to students regarding what races are happening and who’s running. Primary elections for this year were held on September 12th, and the school did nothing to alert students of this. Plenty of local, off-campus political events have been occurring throughout this election cycle, including debates, fundraisers, and rallies. SLC hasn’t advertised these, and if they’ve provided transportation to them, they haven’t done anything to make that widely known.
Like many students, if you’re not registered here, why should you care that SLC lacks local political involvement? Even if you can’t vote here, you’re still impacted by the decisions of these elected officials. You can still attend events, phone bank, canvass, and encourage your friends to vote and get involved.
I would love to see SLC’s administration, one that advertises itself as “progressive”, start putting a proactive effort towards getting the majority of SLC students substantially engaged in Westchester politics, registered here or not. Moreover, I encourage my fellow students to go beyond marking themselves as “interested” on Facebook events, and applaud those who have already taken substantive action. SLC needs an active organization(s) with a blanket focus on our area’s politics, and these efforts must be supported by the administration. Engagement in electoral politics certainly did not become outdated after our last presidential election.
Election day is on Nov. 7. Please remember to vote, research who is on your ballot ahead of time, and get involved.
Zoe Patterson (‘20)