Four Ways College Students Can Influence Politics



Arms raised for voting.

By: Emanuel Perris

Earlier this year, a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida left seventeen dead and seventeen more injured. In response, students across the country have displayed solidarity for the victims and protested existing gun laws by walking out of class.  Villanovans participated in this protest.  On Wednesday morning at 10:00am, dozens of students took to the Oreo. 

This protest left my friend group divided, with some supporting the protest and others denouncing it as erroneous and ineffective.  One skeptic, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that the protest produced more self-validation than change.

“They’re just standing around with other people who agree with them talking about how right they are,” the student said, “They’re never going to change anything that way”

Whether or not the critic’s claim is true is up for debate.  However, he got me thinking: how can college students make their voices heard?  What is the best way for a young person to influence politics?  Wherever you stand on gun control, these four tips will help you participate in national debates intelligently, confidently and effectively.

1: Get informed

Many Americans have opinions about topics they know nothing about.  In fact, it is often said that the more ignorant someone is about a given issue, the stronger their opinion will be.  Don’t let that be you. Before you go to a protest, before you debate friends and family, and before you even think you know where you stand, get informed. 

Research the history of your issue and understand the common arguments surrounding it. Make sure you research both sides of a given debate. It is often uncomfortable to hear opinions contrary to our own, but doing so will allows us to truly understand an issue and will gives us the ability to anticipate counterarguments. When you have read up on your topic, you will be better able to persuade others. An uninformed opinion is easy to brush off, but an intelligent and well supported opinion might just change someone’s mind.

2: Contact lawmakers 

Politicians are labeled “public servants” for a reason.  America is a democratic country, and representatives exist to represent the opinions and interests of their constituents.  However, they can only do so if they what their constituents want.  Every congressman and governor has a phone number, an email address and a website. Use these resources to reach out to lawmakers and tell them how you feel.  

As their constituent, tell them your views and ask them to cast their votes accordingly.  It is true that politicians receive a vast number of calls and emails, and that it takes a large amount of messages to really get a congressman’s attention.  The good news is, every call counts.  For a start, you can call Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Patrick Toomey’s Washington D.C. Office at (202) 224-4254.  Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senator, Robert Casey Jr., can be reached at (202) 224-6324

3: Stay cool

College students go into any political conversation with chips on their shoulders.  Colleges are often portrayed as radicalized and overly sensitive.  The Right especially has cast students as “snowflakes” who cower in safe spaces and throw tantrums at the slightest offense.  It is up to you to prove that stereotype wrong. 

  Even if you are passionate about an issue, do not yell at your opponent, do not judge them, do not insult them, and do not act offended.  Instead, articulate your case calmly, concisely, and well.  Evidence and logic are more likely to win a debate than strong emotions.  

Try and put yourself in your opponent’s shoes. What would be more likely to convince you: seeing just how much they believe their own opinion, or a well-crafted and well-supported argument?  It may benefit you to remove emotion from the language you use to talk about politics.  Instead of asking someone “how do you feel” about an issue, ask them “what do you think.”  This change will make you debate more rational and conversational.

4: Go local

While great national debates like gun control dominate the media and people’s attention, most of the polices that have actual consequences for your life are made at the local level.  Local politics may not be all that exciting, but they are still worth following.  Do your best to vote in town council elections, and try to stay informed about local issues.  This practice might make your area better in some way, and, if nothing else, will give you good experience for participating in politics on a larger scale.  

Disagree with any of these points? Have ideas I overlooked for participating in government?  Write The Villanovan and tell us.