Graduate and professional students gathered at Gryphon’s Pub at GPSCY Tuesday night to attend a political forum for several aldermanic candidates running in the November election.
With six candidates attending, graduate students — who comprise a sizable percentage of the population in at least six wards throughout the city — were given an ideal opportunity to voice their political concerns. But only about 25 students showed up to the Graduate and Professional Student Center at Yale — a turnout that both graduate students and candidates said illustrated a low level of political engagement they hoped to change among the graduate school community.
Jason Marshall SOM ’04, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, said his organization viewed the event as an “experiment” designed to increase graduate students’ involvement in local politics. He said the event’s organizers hoped the event, which included complimentary drinks, would provide students concerned about New Haven with an opportunity to engage the city’s politicians.
“The idea was that if people were going to complain over a beer, they might as well complain over a beer with people who are charged with doing something about those complaints,” Marshall said.
While Marshall invited the candidates to come back to meet and greet potential voters on Thursday night — when graduate students typically congregate at Gryphon’s — he said the community has far to go in creating an active voice in local politics.
“I think we’re trying to build off of a very low base of knowledge and participation, and that’s difficult,” Marshall said.
In Ward 9, which has a high concentration of graduate students, Democratic nominee Elizabeth Addonizio GRD ’06 and Green Party nominee Vic Edgerton EPH F&ES ’03 are both seeking to replace retiring Green Alderman John Halle. Both candidates said students in their ward express concerns about many local issues but often do not see the need to vote in aldermanic elections.
Addonizio said graduate students care about transportation, the environment or economic issues — topics that are frequently addressed by the board. She also said local policies often affect what happens at a state and national level, providing an additional reason for students to vote in city elections.
“I think there are a lot of reasons they should care about the things going on in New Haven,” Addonizio said.
Edgerton, who said about half the residents in Ward 9 are graduate students, said their involvement is critical for creating real democracy in his ward.
“We need to do more talking to grad students and let them know that the community would really appreciate their participation,” Edgerton said.
Brynn Taylor EPH F&ES ’04, an undecided voter in Ward 19, said she attended to hear how candidates intended to improve relations between Yale and the local community. But Taylor said many other graduate students do not feel a need to get engaged in New Haven politics.
“It’s hard for people to invest in something that’s just going to affect them for a few years,” Taylor said.
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